HL Deb 28 February 1985 vol 460 cc1011-2
Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the total estimated expenditure for higher education in 1984–85, and how this compares at current values with 1978–79.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, total capital and current expenditure on higher education in the United Kingdom in 1984–85 is estimated to be £3,285 million. Actual figures will not be available until next year. Capital and current expenditure for the financial year 1978–79 was £1,796 million. In cost terms, using a 1983–84 base, planned expenditure for 1984–85 was £3,136 million and for 1978–79 £3,050 million.

To provide figures for higher education only it has been necessary to estimate the proportion of expenditure on higher education incurred in local authority institutions. The figures do not include expenditure on student support other than on mandatory awards and on students' allowances in Scotland, or funds provided through the research councils for research in universities and for postgraduate awards. The figures reflect the withdrawal of the overseas student subsidy, and changes in the status of EC students and include expenditure on reducing staff numbers.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that it is satisfactory and will perhaps come as a surprise to many people in this country that so much extra in real terms has been found for higher education? Can he possibly tell the House whether the example set by Cambridge, and I think Salford and possibly other universities, whereby they gain by closer relationship with local industry, and perhaps gain some financial advantage at the same time, is being encouraged by the Government and followed by other universities?

The Earl of Swinton

Yes, my Lords. The Government have made it clear that they wish to see links between higher education institutions and industry promoted and strengthened. The University Grants Committee has said that income earned from industry will not lead to any consequent reduction in recurrent grants. The Government and other public bodies have taken action in areas highlighted in the report by the Advisory Council for Applied Research and Development, in collaboration with the Advisory Board for the Research Councils, entitled Improving Research Links between Higher Education and Industry. Such areas include moves towards increased selectivity and research funding, a research policy for public sector higher education, consideration of portable pensions and the establishment of a national data base of academic expertise and facilities.

Baroness Lockwood

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would be more appropriate to take the year 1980–81 as the base line for comparisons, as that was the first year when this Government had responsibility for setting the expenditure level? Will he also confirm that in real terms the universities' recurrent grant for the year 1980–81 was £1,155 million, and in the current year—1984–85—it is £1,074 million, thus showing a substantial reduction?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, what the noble Baroness has said highlights how difficult it is to make comparisons because factors are always changing. I do not think that 1980–81 would have been a particularly good year to have taken as a base year because in that year there was a very, very large pay rise. Indeed, I am sure that many noble Lords will remember that that was due to professor Clegg and his Standing Commission on Pay Comparability. Therefore, I do not think that 1980–81 would have been a very good year.

Baroness David

My Lords, will the Minister confirm that, although the report of the Visiting Committee of the Open University is very supportive of the Open University, nevertheless the indicated grants for 1986 and 1987 show a continuation of the downward trend in real terms which the university has suffered since 1980? Is it not the case that between 1980 and 1984 the Open University's grant was eroded in real terms by £2.5 million?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I do not have any figures available for any institutions, and I am afraid that that includes the Open University. However, I shall certainly write to the noble Baroness with the information. I am sure that her figures are correct.

Lord Annan

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that, during the years 1981 to 1984, the universities have shed something like 7,900 staff, and that the drop in real terms is calculated by the Government, I believe, at 8 per cent., but the universities think that they are worse off by 14 per cent?

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, I would not disagree with the noble Lord's figures. The figures which I have show that they shed some 12.5 per cent. of their full-time academic staff between December 1979 and December 1984.

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