HC Deb 22 January 1985 vol 71 cc849-50
7. Mr. Fisher

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science when he now expects to publish his Green Paper on higher education.

Sir Keith Joseph

Later this year.

Mr. Fisher

Will the Secretary of State consider the latest report of the central services unit, which shows that there are 3,000 fewer university graduates this year and, most damagingly, 600 fewer university graduates in science and technology? Is that not a direct result of the Government's cut in 1981 of money to universities strong in applied sciences, (such as Salford and Aston? Will not further harm be done by his decision last year to cut money for scientific research? What will he do about it?

Sir Keith Joseph

I would be more impressed by the hon. Gentleman if he had stated the full facts. There has been an increase of 60,000 places in higher education, with an enormous increase since 1979, and the increase in polytechnic places far outnumbers the small fall in university places. I would also be more impressed if the hon. Gentleman, in referring to science expenditure, had explained that the reduction was simply a reduction in the increase that the Government had made available for science research. There is to be more science research next year than there was before.

Dr. Hampson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Green Paper will be very important for him if he is not to lose the battle of ideas in higher education? Is he further aware that, despite the many valuable improvements that he has initiated, a distinctly hostile atmosphere is building up in universities and polytechnics, to the point at which apparently only one in five is now sympathetic to the Conservative party?

Sir Keith Joseph

My hon. Friend may be a little romantic about the number who supported us before. I very much hope that the intelligent population in higher education will take account of the relatively poor economic performance that the country has achieved in recent decades. It is improving now, but it is still relatively disappointing. Therefore, they must look other than to the taxpayer for increasing even those small proportions of their funding.

Dr. Bray

Is the Secretary of State aware that, despite what he says, lack of funding is rapidly eroding basic science? Is he further aware that that is the advice of his own senior scientific advisers? What plans or proposals has he to make good the life support which he regarded as essential for the maintenance of basic science for just one year, which he then halved because of the student grant disaster?

Sir Keith Joseph

The hon. Gentleman is wrong on several counts. The Government reduced, but did not halve, the increased allocation. The hon. Gentleman should acknowledge that the Government have given a special increase for science research in the increase that was recently announced, including a necessary improvement in the unfortunately obsolescent provision of equipment in a number of universities. It is necessary that more should be provided for basic science and science research, and that process was begun this year.

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