HC Deb 19 January 1982 vol 16 cc140-1
6. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether Her Majesty's Government have any proposals to increase the number of degree and other high level courses being run in higher education colleges and colleges of technology to compensate for the bulge in the population aged 18 years in the mid 1980s and for the reductions in courses in universities and polytechnics.

Mr. Waldegrave

No, Sir. The initiative in providing new courses of higher education rests with the institutions themselves. The Government's expenditure plans provide for the number of students on courses of higher education outside the universities—that is in polytechnics as well as other colleges—to remain above last year's level through to 1984–85.

Mr. Bennett

Is it not crazy that, faced with a considerable bulge in the population that can benefit from those courses, the Government are cutting the number of courses at universities, polytechnics and higher education colleges, yet at a lower level they are providing courses under the youth opportunities programme? Would it not be better to continue to support traditional courses rather than to bring forward alternatives at a lower level?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman is well aware that the higher education sector cannot be exempt from the pressures to find economies.

Mr. Ward

Is my hon. Friend aware that a post on the higher education board was not advertised nationally? Is he not concerned that that post was not advertised so that the best people, wherever they may be, could reply to the advertisement and not be selected by civil servants?

Mr. Waldegrave

I think that my hon. Friend is referring to the post of secretary of the new Board for Local Authority Higher Education. After long discussions with the local authorities and other bodies we decided not to advertise because of the necessity for speed in setting up the organisation.

Mr. Douglas

How many students in Scotland who have qualifications to fit them for university will be denied places because of the Government's cuts?

Mr. Waldegrave

I shall be delighted to give the hon. Gentleman the figures that we can find. I shall write to him about that.

Mr. Nelson

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that, far from adding courses, one of the major problems of the past decade has been that many high technology colleges, worthy as they were, have aspired to be universities, and in doing so have done a disservice to the students in both educational and financial terms?

Mr. Waldegrave

Whether or not the difficulty is one of aspiring to be universities, there is a real problem in the unnecessary diversification of courses. The better application of resources may lead to more students being taken on more economically.

Mr. Whitehead

As the colleges have suffered more in the advanced further education allocations this year than the polytechnics, and as the Government want fewer students at the polytechnics than at the universities, where do they suggest that the students who are thus displaced will go if they cannot go to the colleges?

Mr. Waldegrave

The reason why the colleges other than polytechnics have suffered more in the AFE distribution is that they did not make the savings required in the last two years. It would have been exceedingly unfair to penalise polytechnics because the other institutions had not been as efficient as them.