HC Deb 06 March 1984 vol 55 cc728-9
15. Mr. Bermingham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he will next be meeting the vice-chancellor of the Open University to discuss the university's involvement in the provision of education and training for the long-term unemployed.

Sir Keith Joseph

I have no plans to meet the vice-chancellor but departmental officials have met representatives of the Open University twice to discuss its application for grant towards the development of learning materials suitable for unemployed adults. A further meeting with the university has been arranged for tomorrow.

Mr. Bermingham

Is the Secretary of State aware that last year the Open University ran out of funds to provide for the courses of the unemployed? This year, to extend the usage of its funds, the university has reduced from two to one the number of credits the unemployed can undertake free. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree with me that, at a time of increasing unemployment, and when education provides a way back into employment, such a reduction in credits is detrimental to the chances of the unemployed?

Sir Keith Joseph

It was precisely because we recognised that requirement, that last year we earmarked £500,000 especially for courses for the unemployed. That amount has been increased by £100,000.

Mr. Sheerman

What is the point of having an increased allocation to co-ordinate resources if the resources on the ground given to the Open University are decreasing and the money it can spend on new courses, which it has developed and which will do so much good for the unemployed, is being cut? What does the Minister say to that cutback?

Sir Keith Joseph

We believe that the Open University ought to be able to obtain a greater use of the money from the taxpayer by increased efficiency.

Mr. Walden

Will my right hon. Friend consider giving more money to the Open University in exchange for greater emphasis on technical courses?

Sir Keith Joseph

The Open University already places great emphasis on technical courses. That is part of the guidance the Government have given to the universities as a whole.