HC Deb 14 November 1989 vol 160 cc176-7
11. Mr. Campbell-Savours

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what discussions he has had with the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council on the question of funding higher education.

Mr. Jackson

This is one of the matters dealt with in the discussions we have from time to time with the funding council.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Minister aware that Cumbria, especially west Cumbria, is exporting a high number of students for higher education to all parts of the United Kingdom? Will the hon. Gentleman lend his support to the provision for a far greater level of higher education within the county and, if necessary, lend his support to the establishment of a polytechnic if the demand for one is clearly established?

Mr. Jackson

The Government's intention is that there should be an expansion of higher education. The questions of how and where this should occur need to be considered further. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's proposal for Cumbria will be given serious consideration.

Mr. Harry Greenway

Will my hon. Friend confirm his expressed intention of doubling the number of students in higher education? Within how many years does he expect to see that doubling? What proportion of that number are expected to go into polytechnics? Does my hon. Friend have any plans to create new polytechnics?

Mr. Jackson

One of the Government's great achievements has been the increase of more than 25 per cent. in the number of students in higher education since we came to office—more than 200,000 students, a rise well above target. We know that because of the reduction in the number of 18-year-olds, we will find it difficult to do more than maintain student numbers in the 1990s. We expect a substantial increase in the demand for and supply of higher education as we go into the next century.

Mr. Andrew Smith

Will the Minister now tell the House the answer to the question that he and the Secretary of State so miserably failed to answer during the student loan debates? How will the Government pay for this commitment to double the numbers over the next 25 years? Will they choose the route of entitlement and increased public expenditure, or will they take the path of privilege and introduce private tuition fees?

Mr. Jackson

It is the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party that have to answer the question about how they would pay for their proposals. The Government's answer is clear. We propose to introduce through the student loan a means to enable students to anticipate some of their income as graduates to help fund their higher education. That will enable an expansion of higher education to be funded.

Mr. Jessel

Is my hon. Friend aware that, although the PCFC has had an increase in funding of more than 6 per cent., it has offered only 2.5 per cent. to the excellent St. Mary's college in Twickenham, whose lack of enthusiasm for the PCFC is shared by me?

Mr. Jackson

I am looking forward to meeting my hon. Friend and his colleagues from his constituency later today when we can discuss the matter further. The way in which the PCFC allocates the resources provided by the Government is a matter for it.

Forward to