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Higher Education and Research Bill - Committee (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:45 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Viscount Younger of Leckie Viscount Younger of Leckie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), Lords Spokesperson (Department for Education) (Higher Education) 4:45 pm, 25th January 2017

I thank all noble Lords who have raised these important issues. I agree immediately with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, about the importance and quality of data. I will make one overarching point, in the interest of brevity, before addressing individual amendments. We are not seeking to determine in the Bill exactly which data must be collected or exactly who must be consulted. Data requirements and needs evolve over time, and the body needs to maintain the ability to adapt to changes.

In response to comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Watson, I appreciate what he said. We do not feel it is appropriate, for example, to specify workforce data when all other data will—very importantly—be agreed under the duty to consult. The relevant body will have the duties to plan data publication in conjunction with the full range of interested parties, with sufficient flexibility to take a responsive approach.

Turning to Amendments 376, 377 and 383, given the OFS’s duty to have regard to the need to promote greater choice and opportunities for students, just to reassure my noble friend Lord Lucas, there is, to my mind, no question that under Clause 59(5), considering the needs of people thinking about undertaking higher education courses must include considering what would be helpful to prospective and potential students from a diverse range of backgrounds.

In considering Amendments 368, 379, 384, 396 and 406, it is expected that the views of higher education staff will be considered as part of the voice of the sector institutions. The OfS will also have the discretion to consult persons they consider appropriate, including any relevant bodies representing the staff interests. I think the noble Lord, Lord Watson, foresaw the words that I have just spoken.