I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply of 20th January. In order to minimise any possible difficulties arising for students who will not benefit from the measures I described in that reply, the announcement of the increases was made at the earliest possible moment and before most institutions of higher education normally begin to notify students of their acceptance.—[Vol. 739; c. 147–48.]
Would not my hon. Friend agree that this must be seen in the context of the declining priority given by the Government to overseas aid generally? If we accept the move towards political independence as being worth while, we must provide the trained personnel to run independent countries, and future students are as important as present students.
I agree that there is a clear connection between this question and that of aid policy generally, but it is not the case that there is a declining will on the part of the Government in respect of aid to developing countries. There was, of course, a reduction connected with the measures announced on 20th July, but the basis for this is that no aid programme can succeed unless the home economy is sound and secure.
Can the hon. Gentleman say what percentage of students from developing Commonwealth countries will have their extra charges defrayed by his Department? What is to happen to those who, in the middle of courses, find they have not the means to meet the economic charge? Was this not a breach of faith with them by the Government?
The total of those affected is about 25,000, and some 6,000 students have their fees financed by their own Governments. The hon. Gentleman will, therefore, be able to do the arithmetic himself. With regard to the private students, they are not a direct responsibility of my right hon. Friend but of the Secretary of State for Education and Science, to whom the hon. Gentleman should put his question about them.
Has the hon. Gentleman seen the report on the serious effect this increase may well have on future enrolments at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine? In view of the value of certain courses, particularly to overseas students, will the hon. Gentleman consider giving grants to this institution so that the whole cost of overseas students attending certain courses may be defrayed?
It has been indicated in earlier replies that it will be open to overseas Governments to submit suggestions about students whom they wish to sponsor, and these will be open to consideration by my Ministry.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that overseas students are not only the most economical but the best ambassadors that this country has, and that the decision recently announced is resented by both sides of the House? Would he perhaps recommend this decision to the Secretary of State for Education and Science as a suitable candidate for any new abortion legislation?
I agree about the great value of having students from overseas in our educational institutions. I believe, however, that the effect of the proposed measures has been considerably exaggerated in the recent controversy.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that, of all forms of aid, this is one of the most useful and important? Would he not agree that the main burden of this cut will fall on those least able to bear it?
I agree that this is an important form of aid, which is why we have made arrangements to ensure that those students for whom my Department is responsible do not suffer, nor the Governments who send them here. Questions about private students are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.
Will my hon. Friend assure the House that he will consult the Secretary of State for Education and Science? Is it not the case that this policy is equivalent to eating the seed corn and can prove, in the end, far more expensive and, indeed, dangerous if implemented at this stage? Will my hon. Friend make every effort to get the Secretary of State to rethink this myopic and dangerous proposal?
I assure my hon. Friend that consultations have taken place between our two Departments, with a satisfactory outcome for the students for whom our Department is responsible.
asked the Minister of Overseas Development whether he has considered the effect upon developing countries of the increased fees for their students in the United Kingdom; and whether, in the light of this, he will take action to increase the capacity of universities particularly in the newer Commonwealth Dominions.
We cannot yet predict the precise effects but the situation will be watched. Substantial assistance has been given over the years to develop capacity in overseas institutions of higher education and we expect to continue this work in future.
Does not my hon. Friend accept the view that this unpopular and backward financial step of cutting aid will hit many nations particularly in Africa where, as he knows, many villages and clans club together to send their best boys over here for education? Will he consider stepping up the number of teachers?
We are constantly seeking to recruit teachers for service overseas and providing funds on a generous scale for establishment and expansion of educational institutions there.