HC Deb 17 April 1991 vol 189 cc406-7
5. Mr. John Marshall

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the number of students in higher education in Scotland.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

The numbers of students in full-time higher education have increased by about one third to 90,000 since the Government took office. Part-time students have also increased by about one fifth.

Mr. Marshall

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, which is good news for the people of Scotland and especially for the individuals involved. Does he agree that it demonstrates the Government's commitment to the cause of higher education and to the creation of an opportunity society?

Mr. Forsyth

Yes, indeed. When the Government took office, about one in six school leavers went on to higher education. Today the figure is about one in four and by the end of our next decade in office, the figure will be one in three.

Mr. Ron Brown

I am sure that the Minister knows, but is forgetting, that many rejects from the public school system in England are given certain rights to come to Scotland—and especially to Edinburgh university—at the expense of ordinary, working-class individuals. That was exposed recently. What is he doing to ensure that there is equality of opportunity in Scotland for both English and Scottish working-class individuals and for youngsters who have every right to higher education? The Minister must know about that problem because it was highlighted in The Scotsman some months ago and he clearly reads that newspaper.

Mr. Forsyth

If the hon. Gentleman says that it appeared in The Scotsman, I suppose that it must be so. However, if he considers our record he will find that participation in higher education in Scotland has already gone beyond the target set for England by the end of the century. We have a participation rate of about 25 per cent. That is an excellent record, but we are not complacent about it. As I said, we have set ourselves high targets and the decisions taken on higher and further education will enable us to achieve our objectives.