HC Deb 20 November 1986 vol 105 cc281-2W
Mr. Hargreaves

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will publish updated projections of higher education numbers.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

I am today publishing, with the agreement of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, new projections of possible student demand for higher education in Great Britain until the year 2000. Copies are available in the Vote Office.

Since 1979 the number of home students in higher education has increased by almost 140,000, including an increase of 80,000 in the number of full-time students; the proportion of the 18 to 19-year-olds entering full-time higher education has risen from 12 to 13.9 per cent.; and the number of mature entrants to full-time higher education is up by more than 15 per cent. The proportion of home students on science courses has increased from 44 to 47 per cent. and the proportion who are women from 42 to 44 per cent.

The new projections envisage further increases in numbers over the next few years and illustrates what may happen in the 1990s when the number of 18 to 19-year-olds is going to fall by one-third.

Two projections have been prepared. Projection P assumes broadly the continuation of present trends in numbers obtaining qualifications for entry to higher education, and the present pattern of such entry. For mature students it assumes continuation of the recent higher entry rates. Projection Q illustrates how demand would rise if the proportion of young people qualifying for higher education increased further over the period and if the proportion of those qualifying and of older people wanting to enter higher education also increased. The documnt sets out the detailed assumptions and statistical tehniques which underpin these projections.

Neither of the projections should be interpreted as offering a statement of Government policy. They underline, however, the need to review the implications of the fall in numbers of young people for the supply of highly qualified manpower. In addition, the analysis brings out the extent to which participation rates in higher education will depend on the success of the Government's policies to raise standards in schools, to increase participation in education and training among young people after the age of 16, and to encourage more suitably qualified mature students to enter higher education. The Government's policy remains the provision of places for all who have the intellectual competence, maturity and motivation to benefit from higher education and who wish to do so.

I shall be studying carefully the implications of the new projections for the future funding and planning of higher education, consulting the University Grants Committee and the National Advisory Body for Public Sector Higher Education as appropriate.