HC Deb 22 February 1983 vol 37 c788
4. Mr. Freud

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what has been the average cost of obtaining a degree course at the Open University to a student commencing (a) now, (b) in 1979 and (c) in 1975.

Mr. Waldegrave

The cost of taking a single credit Open University degree course, with attendance at a summer school, is estimated to be c286 in 1983. The comparable figures for 1979 and 1975, at 1983 prices, are £268 and £254, respectively.

Mr. Freud

Is the Minister aware that there is substantial hardship among the unemployed who are taking or intending to take Open University degrees? Will he set up a fund for that growing sector of society?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am happy to inform the hon. Gentleman that the Government set up such a fund two years ago, with £500,000, which is being fully used to help to bring the benefits of the Open University to unemployed people.

Mr. Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that the fund is being well taken up by unemployed people successfully following Open University courses and that the number applying for such courses is holding up extraordinarily well, particularly for the summer schools?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend knows the Open University extremely well, and what he says is correct.

Mr. Whitehead

Is the Minister aware that 46 per cent. of those who were offered places at the Open University but had to turn them down gave the increase in fees as the reason? Is that not an indictment of the Government's policy on Open University fees?

Mr. Waldegrave

What the hon. Gentleman says is perfectly correct. That is why for the next two years the Government have moderated the increase to keep in line with inflation. Labour Members should tread a little warily here, as the Labour Government were responsible for by far the biggest increase in Open University fees—60 per cent. in one year.