HC Deb 17 February 1987 vol 110 cc757-8
5. Mr. Thurnham

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what recent representations he has received about the arrangements for further education in the north-west; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Walden

My right hon. Friend has received a number of letters in 1987 from hon. Members and from local authorities about further education in the north-west. In December I met a delegation from Bolton, including hon. Members, about the possible designation of Bolton institute of higher education as an additional polytechnic.

Mr. Thurnham

In view of the importance of advanced further education to local industry, will my hon. Friend ensure that colleges and polytechnics in the north-west obtain adequate funding for next year?

Mr. Walden

We shall do better than that. I have noticed that among the general increases in funding that the Government have provided, no less than 9 per cent. has gone to polytechnics and colleges in the north-west. I am glad to add that the increase for the Bolton institute of higher education, for which I know my hon. Friend has a particular affection, totals no less than 17 per cent. Having visited that college, I should say that that increase is well earned.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Will the Under-Secretary of State accept that increasing fees reduces the number of students?

Mr. Walden

The simple answer to that question is to consider the statistics. Whether Opposition Members like it or not, we are living through the biggest expansion of higher education in this country since the legendary Robbins era. The fact that the hon. Gentleman has raised that piddling question shows that he is avoiding the essential fact of that expansion.

Mr. Robert Atkins

Does my hon. Friend believe that arrangements for further education in the north-west are enhanced by the conduct of the Associated Examining Board, which recently announced that, for A-levels, for example, the proper use of the English language, the ability to spell and the correct use of syntax were not important for passing examinations? Does he agree that that is ridiculous?

Mr. Walden

I am glad not to have formal responsibility for schools, or I might be tempted to say exactly what I think about the views of the AEB.