HC Deb 23 October 1979 vol 972 cc189-90
Mr. Christopher Price

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science how many overseas students were in higher education over the past two years; and how many he expects to be there over the next two years.

Dr. Boyson

In higher education in Great Britain there were 57,600 overseas students in 1977–78 and about 58,400 in 1978–79. The planning numbers for expenditure purposes, continuing the policy of the previous Government of restricting the number of foreign students, were 46,000 in 1979–80 and 45,000 for 1980–81, but plans for 1980–81 are under review and an announcement will be made shortly.

Mr. Price

Is the Minister aware that this is all completely changed by the Government's recent announcement, whereby fees in British higher education will be the highest in the world? They will be double the size of those even in California. Is he aware that this policy, in the opinion of the vice-chancellors, will destroy many technological courses in our universities? There is a mix there, and if overseas students leave there will be no viable courses left for the home students. Does the final paragraph of the letter from his right hon. and learned Friend to the vice-chancellors yesterday mean that the Government will have second thoughts on this matter if the University Grants Committee gives as its considered opinion that this will decimate—not just reduce—the number of overseas students in Britain?

Dr. Boyson

There is a considerable number of American colleges where fees are at least equal to, if not higher than, those in this country. It is as well to remember that when, in 1977–78, there was an increase in fees by the previous Labour Government of between 40 per cent. and 105 per cent., there were 2,500 more foreign students in this country the following year than there were the year before. It is also as well to remember that one-quarter of the foreign students come from countries where the average income is higher than in this country and that many of them come from wealthy families. It is not a question of taking away from the poor of the world.