HC Deb 22 November 1983 vol 49 cc156-7
10. Mr. Canavan

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what subjects he expects to discuss at his next meeting with the chairman of the University Grants Committee.

Mr. Brooke

My right hon. Friend and I have frequent meetings with the chairman of the UGC, but no future meeting is arranged at present.

Mr. Canavan

Will the Under-Secretary discuss the detrimental effect on higher education of the miserable 4 per cent. increase in student grants and the 50 per cent. cut in the minimum student grant when even the committee of vice-chancellors and principals urged a 22 per cent. increase as being necessary to keep pace with rising costs? Does he realise that those harsh decisions will cause a great deal of hardship to many students and, in some cases, may even make it difficult for students to continue their courses?

Mr. Brooke

The 4 per cent. student grant increase is approximately in line with inflation. The number of students in the higher education system is the highest ever, which seems to march against what the hon. Gentleman said.

Mr. Jackson

As it seems inevitable that resources available from public funds for the higher education sector will be reduced in the years ahead, what steps are the Government taking to encourage the flow of private resources into higher education?

Mr. Brooke

We want greater diversity in higher education and we should like institutions to become less dependent on the public purse. We are considering ways to encourage that and I hope that the dialogue will continue.

Mr. Alton

Given the 32 per cent. reduction in the number of Commonwealth students in our universities since 1979, will the Minister discuss with the chairman of the UGC how to attract more Commonwealth students to our universities and colleges? Will he give special attention to the problems of medical students from poorer countries, many of whom cannot afford to pay fees of more than £7,000 per year for possibly five years?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that according to UCCA there are 27 per cent. more applications from overseas students this year than at the same stage last year.

Mr. Dorrell

Will my right hon. Friend take the opportunity of his next meeting with the UGC to confirm that in the Government's view research and undergraduate teaching are not separate functions of universities but different sides of the same coin? Will he deny current speculation that the Government are considering proposals to divorce research from undergraduate teaching?

Mr. Brooke

If my hon. Friend will allow me to add the word "scholarship" to his question, I can confirm that the chairman of the UGC shares his views.