My Lords, this is one of those interesting documents that seems to have come out of the middle of nowhere, because four months ago nobody would have assumed we would be in this situation. The idea that you should stop universities that have better academic relations—based on either academic achievement or straightforward snob value—from hoovering up extra students seems quite reasonable. You should not be able to increase your numbers to the detriment of the rest of the sector.
There are one or two side issues here, and the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, has raised a few of them. I should declare an interest—albeit one that is decreasing as time goes on—in that I went to a Scottish university, Aberdeen. Aberdeen proudly boasted that it had two universities when England had two universities. The question is: if we are starting to affect these institutions in the north, how are we going to compensate them? They are still part of the United Kingdom, and the interchange of students between the two nations does not do any harm to the relationship between the two states in most cases, although I can think of one or two people in my past where I suggest that was not the case. We need some clarity from the Government about what they are doing on this issue.
The issue of unconditional offers is coming up here. They do not enjoy a tremendously good reputation. Some sort of minimum standard has often been considered in education, and this might be a good time to bring it in. Unconditional offers stop people working and sometimes mean that they are not prepared for going forward. If we are prepared to do something to address that issue, it might be one small crumb of good to come out of this very unpleasant situation.