I have regular meetings with members of the CVCP and last met them on 17 March 1999. They have made no approaches to me on this particular topic, but obviously I would be happy see them, as ever.
What reflection does the Secretary of State have on the evidence, to which I have drawn his Department's attention, from the CVCP and the Scottish universities to the committee under Sir George Quigley reviewing the fee anomaly and on the part that that anomaly might play in attracting fewer students to Scottish universities from England and Wales? Is the downturn of 18.4 per cent. registered by St. Andrews university to be expected by other Scottish universities? Both Heriot-Watt university and Edinburgh university are worried.
The figures published on Tuesday by the higher education statistics agency showed that we must compare like with like. Although there was a downturn in the number of students applying last year to Scottish universities from England, the number registered as taking up places for the current academic year rose by 3 per cent. Although there was a downturn in those entering in the first year, there was an upturn in those entering later, in the second year of four-year courses. Enrolment, as opposed to applications, was up. That is encouraging, both for Scottish universities and for the new system. I was encouraged when I was in Scotland yesterday to learn that the university with the largest number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Paisley, had had an upturn in applications for the coming year.