HC Deb 14 July 1981 vol 8 cc963-4
4. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the latest estimate of the total reduction in university income resulting from both the overseas student fees policy and the decrease in the recurrent grant.

Mr. Mark Carlisle

The reduction in universities' total income for 1980–81 as a result of the overseas students fees policy and the reduction in recurrent grant is provisionally estimated to be about £30 million, or less than 2½ per cent. of universities recurrent income. No reliable estimate is available of the reduction in universities' total income for 1981–82 because of uncertainties about student numbers and fee income.

Mr. Beith

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that estimates of £55 million have been made as the possible reduction caused by the policy on overseas students' fees? Even if it is less, can he honestly state any purposes of public policy that are served by the Government's intentions on overseas students?

Mr. Carlisle

Of course I can. The answer, as I have made clear, is to reduce the indiscriminate subsidy going from the taxpayer to all overseas students, irrespective of their personal financial situation and of the wealth or otherwise of the countries from which they come.

Mr. Rhodes James

Has the attention of my right hon. and learned Friend been called to an article by Lord Balogh in The Daily Telegraph yesterday, which calls for a complete review of higher and further education as a whole? Does this not fit in neatly with the contribution made to the debate last Wednesday by the hon. Member for Cambridge?

Mr. Carlisle

I listened to my hon. Friend's speech last Wednesday—which I thought was extremely good—and I shall read with interest Lord Balogh's article, which I am sure will be equally good.

Mr. Whitehead

If, as the universities calculate, the cuts over the next three years will mean an excess of 17 per cent. and a fall of 20,000 in student numbers, will the Minister say what the DES has done to calculate two further figures? First, how many students next year and the following year will not now get university places, and what will happen about those who have already been given conditional acceptances? Has the Department any information on whether those acceptances are valid in law, or what will be position be? Finally, will the Minister say what the position is on the buying out of the academic staff who have now been made redundant? Is he aware that figures have been brought to our attention suggesting that those amounts may be 10 times more than the paltry sum that has been set aside by the Government?

Mr. Carlisle

The hon. Gentleman asked many questions, and I shall do my best to answer them.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The ration is one.

Mr. Carlisle

I feel, Mr. Speaker, that I should ask the hon. Gentleman to choose which one. However, I shall try to deal with them all.

I hope that it will be possible for all conditional offers of places to be honoured.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about numbers, we have gone no further than we went in this year's White Paper. We believe that the total student population this year will be 265,000. I accept that the UGC's proposals would mean that by the year 1984–85 there would be 20,000 fewer students than there are at present in universities, thus bringing the numbers back to what they were in 1977–78. I am not prepared to say now what effect that will have on entries, because, as I said last week, last year I was told in advance by vice-chancellors that level funding would mean a large drop in entries, yet 7,000 more students got in. Therefore, I am not prepared to make an assessment in that regard at this stage.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Is the Secretary of State aware that the principal of Aberdeen university has described the Government's proposals through the UGC as a sin against knowledge and has likened the effects of Government policy to the educational vacuum that followed the Chinese cultural revolution and the book-burning in Nazi Germany? Faced with such savage criticism by a very moderate person, will he think again about the cuts in university finances?

Mr. Carlisle

If the vice-chancellor made those statements—

Mr. Hughes

The principal.

Mr. Carlisle

The principal seems to be guilty of the exaggeration that one normally expects from the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes).