Higher Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 28th June 1995.

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Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North 2:30 pm, 28th June 1995

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people are currently on higher education courses in Scotland; what was the figure in May 1979; what those figures were as a fraction of the population of the relevant age; and if he will make a statement. [29385]

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

There were 132,509 people on full-time higher education courses in Scotland in 1993–94 and 68,322 in 1978–79. The age participation index for the earliest available year, 1980–81, was 17.3 per cent. compared with 38.3 per cent. in 1993–94. These figures show the extent to which the Government have increased overall numbers of students, and participation, in higher education in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Will my right hon. Friend accept my strong congratulations on those excellent figures? The people of Scotland will surely know that this Government have brought real educational opportunities to the young people of Scotland in a way that the Labour party never has.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. An increase from just under 70,000 when the Government came to power to 132,500 now is a remarkable commitment by the Government to higher education in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

In view of the increased numbers in higher education in Scotland, why are the Secretary of State and his colleagues so cool about the possibility of developing a university of the highlands, an idea that is backed by the development agencies, by the local authorities and by all the Members of Parliament in the area?

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

The hon. Gentleman will know of the considerable expansion of the universities which has already taken place in Scotland. I have, of course, taken a close interest in the development of academic opportunities for those in the highlands. I compliment all those involved in the extension of distance learning techniques and other activities to bring advantages to that area. At the moment, we do not see a case for a university of the highlands as such.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

My right hon. Friend will know that the Government have beaten their own targets in terms of increasing the proportion of people going into higher education. Would he consider moving money from that budget into training people in technician and apprentice work? We seem constantly to be putting money into graduates who sometimes do not get jobs, although we do not have enough people with good, practical technical skills.

Photo of Mr Ian Lang Mr Ian Lang , Galloway and Upper Nithsdale

My hon. Friend is right and makes a telling point. This is a matter to which the Government have given considerable attention. My hon. Friend will have studied the recent competitiveness White Paper and its predecessor a year ago, which show that the focus of our attention is on improving skills in precisely the area that he identifies.