Since the beginning of May, 170 representations have been received from hon. Members, academic institutions, students and student associations and other interested national organisations.
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the consequence of charging higher fees to overseas students is seen not only in lower numbers of such students, but, more especially, in the poorest students from the poorest countries being badly affected? How does that square with what the Prime Minister said yesterday on her return from the Cancum summit in Mexico?
The hon. Gentleman is not stating the precise position. The Government have provided a substantial sum to help pay the fees of those who come to Britain from poor countries.
Will my right hon. Friend tell the House how the numbers of overseas students in our universities now compare with what they were targeted to be under the previous Labour Governments' quota scheme?
Has the right hon. Gentleman noticed what has happened to trade between Britain and Malaysia in recent months? Is he aware that an all-party group of Members of Parliament that visited Malaysia recently was told that the reduction in trade had resulted largely from the discrimination that Malaysia felt over overseas students? For the sake of a small proportion of a £100 million saving in overseas fees, is it worth jeopardising billions of pounds of United Kingdom trade?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. There is a legitimate anxiety on both sides of the House to protect those who do not come from wealthy families or rich countries and who would otherwise benefit from education in Britain. Various reliefs have been provided by the Government to enable more students in that position to come here. The reliefs that the Government have provided should be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
This year Sheffield university has lost fee income of about £1 million. Is the Secretary of State suggesting that the university should trawl the world for rich students or forgo that fee income and probably the courses associated with it? If he is making the former suggestion, may I ask how he squares that with the criticism properly made of it at the Mexico summit?
The hon. Gentleman knows that Governments of both colours do not desire or achieve any control over universities. The universities have been on a rising diet of taxpayers' money for more than 25 years. They now face one of the first adjustments that they have had to make, and many of them are finding ways to adjust.