I draw attention to my declaration of interest. I support entirely the points made by my noble friend Lord Bassam, but want to put on record that I am sick and tired of hearing those who have benefited from higher education, and whose children have gone through or wish to go through higher education, denigrating it and suggesting that other people’s children should not.
It is time that the Government understood the catastrophic hit being perpetrated on the higher education sector. Yes, Universities UK was concerned about the smaller and more vulnerable institutions—I get that—but we need a major marketing programme supported by the Government, both nationally and internationally, and to recognise that mass unemployment among young people in the coming year will require us to open up those opportunities still further, not as an alternative to apprenticeships or the opportunity to take in-service training in jobs when they are available, but realising that those opportunities will be limited. Foundation and access courses encouraging young people who are capable of doing so to go to university therefore make social, cultural and economic sense. And of course, for international students who are absolutely crucial to the cross-subsidy of research, it is important to turn fine words into reality.
As the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, said, there has been an unprecedented response by the Government to our economic and health challenge but that has not been true of the investment in and help to higher education. If we do not get this right, we will face a dual disbenefit—first, the impact of the geopolitical events and uncertainties of the moment, and secondly, a lack of recruitment at home, which would be bad for young people and disastrous for the university sector.