§ Earl Russell
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have seen the Edinburgh University Students' Association report on student finances and employment and, if so, what is their reaction to it.
§ Lord Fraser of Carmyllie
It is not possible to comment in a meaningful way on this report without having seen the precise nature of the questions asked, or the statistical relevance of the sample. The survey also relates to the circumstances said to prevail at one university, at one particular date; it cannot be viewed as representing the overall UK position.
The noble Earl will recall that the findings of a UK-wide survey of student income and expenditure, commissioned jointly by the Education Departments, were published last December. These showed, among other things, that:
—if all students took out loans, the average real terms increase in support from public funds would have been about a quarter since 1988;
—more students from less well-off families were entering higher education;
—the financial burden on parents had eased.
We regard that survey as a more comprehensive assessment of student finances and a better benchmark against which to draw conclusions; it was the most extensive survey of its kind since 1988–89.