Higher Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 31st January 1989.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East 12:00 am, 31st January 1989

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement about the likely balance between arts subjects and other subjects for study in higher education during the next 10 years.

Mr. Jackson:

The balance of subjects will be determined largely by institutions and students. We believe that there should be a further shift towards science, engineering and vocational courses to provide the balance of skills that the economy needs. But this is entirely consistent with retaining high levels of scholarships in all the arts, humanities and social sciences.

Photo of Mr Peter Thurnham Mr Peter Thurnham , Bolton North East

Would my hon. Friend encourage students who are nervous about top-up loans to choose to study useful subjects that are in demand so they can be confident about getting good jobs and have no trouble repaying their debts to society?

Mr. Jackson:

I would urge students to consider very carefully the courses that they undertake in the light of what they think is right for them and their future employment prospects. I certainly believe that the top-up loan proposals, which the Government have made and will introduce in due course, will help to encourage a greater sense of economic realism among students, which would be a desirable development.

Photo of Mr Ted Rowlands Mr Ted Rowlands , Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney

In trying to achieve his objective, will the hon. Gentleman attempt not to reduce the choice of arts subjects in schools? In particular, will he take note of and clarify the role of the Training Commission, which is still trying to impose a school curriculum in advance of the national curriculum agreed by the Secretary of State?

Mr. Jackson:

This is not a matter particularly for me, but I do not recognise the picture that the hon. Gentleman paints of an attempt to squeeze out arts subjects. That is not happening.

Photo of Mr Robert Rhodes James Mr Robert Rhodes James , Cambridge

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend's emphasis on the need for a balance of subjects in the national interest. Does that mean that he and our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will reject the extraordinary proposals of the University Grants Committee to close the outstanding veterinary schools in Glasgow and in Cambridge?

Mr. Jackson:

As a result of the review committee, a proposal has been made to the University Grants Committee. The UGC, and the Universities Funding Council after 1 April, will have to consider it. It is a matter for them to consider in the first instance.

Photo of Andrew Smith Andrew Smith Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Further to his previous reply, what estimate has the Minister made of the effects of the top-up loan proposals on the balance of subjects? In particular, does he agree that medical students, by virtue of the length and nature of their courses, would be especially badly hit and could face outstanding debts of some £19,000 at the end of their courses? What study has he made of that and why does not the loans White Paper refer to medical students?

Mr. Jackson:

On behalf of the Treasury Bench I welcome the hon. Gentleman to his august responsibilities. Of course, the Government have considered the impact of top-up loans on student choice of subjects. The conclusion that we have reached is that the consequences are unpredictable. Certainly the scare stories that the hon. Gentleman may be about to launch bear no relation to the position in other countries that have loans schemes for their students on a scale considerably more demanding than the proposals that we are making.

Photo of Charles Wardle Charles Wardle , Bexhill and Battle

Will it not be essential in the next decade for management education to be extended so that as many young women and men as possible go out into the world without feeling ignorant about the way in which business works?

Mr. Jackson:

I agree with my hon. Friend. The Government strongly support the development of management education and are very pleased at the progress being made. We hope that it will be faster.