HC Deb 11 April 1986 vol 95 cc196-7W
Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what consultations took place between his Department and the National Advisory Body for Higher Education prior to the guidance issued by the latter to polytechnics and colleges to give courses in social work training low priority status.

Mr. Walden

Pending ministerial decisions on the level of funding for public sector higher education (due later this year) my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State invited NAB to plan on the basis of a range of assumptions about the level of resources likely to be available. The NAB declined to do this, proceeding instead on the basis of a single assumption—initially that the total would be 1 per cent. higher than in 1986–87 and then, in response to a suggestion from my right hon. Friend, that the total might rise by some 3.5 per cent., in line with the forecast GDP deflator.

Using this figure of a 3½ per cent. increase in funding, NAB has argued that intakes should be reduced on average by 7 per cent. in 1987–88 and has instructed its secretariat to discuss possible student target numbers with institutions on that basis. Within the overall reduction of 7 per cent, some programmes have been identified for a relatively greater and other for a relatively smaller reduction than the average. The programme area that includes social work training is among those that would reduce by more than the average.

The assumptions adopted by NAB for its planning exercise, including the categorisation of programmes, have been the subject of discussion by the NAB board, on which officials of the Department and members of Her Majesty's Inspectorate are represented, and by the NAB committee, which I chair as the Department's sole representative. They have not, however, been submitted to my right hon. Friend for his approval. Formal recommendations on the disposition of academic provision in 1987–88 will be formulated by NAB later this year in the light of the resources actually available (to be announced in the autumn) and should be submitted to my right hon. Friend for decision in December 1986.

It will be for institutions, within the target numbers eventually allocated to them for individual programmes, to decide what priority to give to particular courses, including social work training courses.