HC Deb 10 March 1981 vol 1000 cc751-2
19. Mr. Teddy Taylor

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a further statement on his review of student grants and loans.

31. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he has now rejected proposals for loans rather than grants for the maintenance of first degree students.

Dr. Boyson

My right hon. and learned Friend hopes to bring his consideration of this matter to a conclusion in the near future.

Mr. Taylor

Before making a decision on loans, will the Minister take account of the costs which would be involved in establishing a structure for considering cases of hardship? Will he also consider the very substantial problems which would arise if graduates moved abroad to take up employment in the EEC or elsewhere?

Dr. Boyson

I take into consideration the points that have been made by my hon. Friend with regard both to hardship and to graduates moving abroad. Those matters form part of the many considerations that we are at present taking into account.

Mr. Whitehead

Will the Minister do a little more of the thinking aloud for which he is so famous and tell us how the proposals for loans that he is now considering would increase the take-up of university places by poorer students who currently receive the full mandatory grant?

Dr. Boyson

Compared with other countries in Europe, including countries such as Sweden which have a loan system, the percentage of working class children going to university is lower in this country. The present scheme, therefore, does not work. Clearly, this is a matter of concern to both sides of the House. Nobody can say that the present scheme is taking up poorer children now, because the percentage is dropping.

Sir Bernard Braine

Is there any truth in the assertion that the Department is contemplating treating students from the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as foreign students and not even extending to them advantages to be enjoyed by students from the EEC? If so, is he aware that many hon. Members on both sides of the House would regard such treatment of British youngsters who have long enjoyed traditional rights in this country as wrong? Will he look at this matter again?

Dr. Boyson

There are special arrangements on education funding between the mainland and the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, but I am sure that we shall take note of what my hon. Friend has said. I share his sentiments on this matter.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Despite the assurances that the Minister has given will he further support the provision for overseas students coming to the United Kingdom— [HON. MEMBERS:"Reading."] Yes, I will read the figures. Let us have them out.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am sorry, but the hon. Gentleman has committed himself out of his own mouth. He must try to remember them.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Minister aware that applications by overseas students to Lancaster university fell by 68 per cent. in the current year—in accounting by 42 per cent. and in economics by 56 per cent.? Does not this fall in support for overseas students coming to the United Kingdom totally undermine the possibility of good relations between this country and other Governments in the future?

Dr. Boyson

I take the point made by the hon. Gentleman. But last year, in certain establishments such as the London School of Economics the numbers on some courses almost doubled, while at others the numbers fell. I shall be interested to find out at the end of the year whether the figures for other universities have risen and whether those for Lancaster have fallen.