In the few minutes available to me, I want to focus on two aspects of the debate that are of critical importance, but which are often overlooked in the heat-rather than light-generated by the Opposition. They are support for part-time students, and the Government's wish to make the higher and further education sectors more flexible.
Both the Open university and the new University Centre Milton Keynes are close to my constituency, so I, too, have a strong local interest in the issue. Both institutions have welcomed the Government's broad approach. In a speech to the Universities UK conference last week, the vice-chancellor of the Open university, Martin Bean, said:
"I believe we are on the brink of creating a more diverse, flexible and open system of higher education in this country which will provide greater choice and opportunity for young students and adult learners alike and which will have a strong focus on quality. This is a significant step forward."
I completely agree with that sentiment. In our current economic climate, we need to have imaginative new solutions that will deliver focused, relevant and timely higher education at a lower cost.