HC Deb 18 May 1982 vol 24 cc176-7
4. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what progress he has made in considering the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee in its eleventh report of Session 1981–82 on the possibility of allowing universities further time to adjust to contractions.

Mr. Waldegrave

The recommendation to which the hon. Member refers is a matter for the University Grants Committee, to which it was addressed.

Mr. Whitehead

Is the Under-Secretary of State aware that that answer will not wash, because, as the Committee of Vice Chancellors pointed out, action can be taken on the recommendations only if money is forthcoming from the Government? Instead of telling the universities that they should alter their statutes in order to sack more academic and non-academic staff, will the Minister consider cost-effectiveness as it relates to the hardest-hit universities, such as Bradford, Hull, Keele, Salford and Stirling?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Gentleman says that my answer will not wash, but the recommendation was addressed to the UGC. The UGC will shortly be sending out letters detailing the distributions for 1982–83, and there will be a number of changes in the recommendations.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my hon. Friend agree that the UGC often seems out of touch with the universities that are doing most to comply with the Government's view that they should become technological? Does he agree that a 12-month extension of the contraction period would help and would be financially and scholastically more viable?

Mr. Waldegrave

I do not accept that the UGC is out of touch on this. I believe that it is more closely in touch than any other group of people in this country. Indeed, in the case of Salford it has granted an extension of one year.

Mr. Christopher Price

If, late next year or early in 1984, a university gives notice that it will have to declare itself bankrupt within the next few days, will that announcement be of any interest to the Minister? Will he simply say that it is a matter for the UGC, or will he feel that he has some responsibility for that?

Mr. Waldegrave

The UGC has made it clear that it does not believe that that situation will arise. Nor do I.

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