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Orders of the Day — Further and Higher Education Bill [Lords]

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:44 pm on 11th February 1992.

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Photo of Kenneth Clarke Kenneth Clarke Secretary of State for Education and Science 4:44 pm, 11th February 1992

I pay tribute to everything that has been achieved in the polytechnics in recent years and to the contribution by the staff to their cost-effective expansion and their reduction in unit costs. However, as my hon. Friend knows, I shall not go on from that to say that we should have a review body for polytechnic or university lecturers. Review body status is given to particular groups or professions in the public service. As it is not strictly relevant to the Bill, I shall give only one reason for not extending review body status to higher education. Higher education institutions do not receive all their funds from the Government, so to continue to move the review body boundaries forward would be to give review body status to groups of employees who are not paid solely out of public funds. A high proportion of higher education institutions' funds come from outside. Therefore, although I pay tribute to higher education staff, I do not couple that with granting review body status, as my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-West (Dr. Hampson) wishes.

I hope that ending the distinction between universities and polytechnics will not end the diversity of provision. We do not want to see an end to the distinctive mission of those universities that concentrate on, say, applied research rather than on basic research, and that have extremely close links with industry and many part-time as well as full-time students. Such institutions may also have a higher proportion of mature students and may have developed a wide range of courses. I hope that ending the distinction will mean that the whole of our higher education system will give proper regard to applied research, not just to basic research. I hope that the whole may be stimulated to develop closer links with industry and that different institutions will retain their individual ethos and, to use the Americanism, their "mission" in continuing to make their contribution to the system.