My Lords, I refer to my interests, as in the register. I totally understand why the Government feel that these measures are important and necessary during this crisis, though I have a number of questions. Making a decision of this nature, based on the finances available, is one way of looking at it but, equally, another question is: what we can do to enable the university sector to survive? I suppose the most fundamental question is: what will be best for these students? Many of them—both those going to university and those who cannot—will be scarred during this period by the lack of employment and other opportunities.
Perhaps more thought needs to be given in the coming months, as these measures filter through, to how to distinguish and accelerate the trends that we were already starting to see in previous years, in online and an expansion of vocational, and pivot the sector towards them. For example, fees and loans could be set both to reflect the realities of online learning and to incentivise the higher education institutions to expand their offerings, to international and local students, and partner with third parties to provide vocational courses—particularly given the large numbers of people in many of our worst-affected sectors and industries who may need retraining to move into future industries that will be less susceptible to Covid and other such structural disruption.
Essentially, my question to the Minister is: what thought has been put into creating incentives for universities to divert away just from foreign students and the local student pot into new areas? As many will now have gap years or not go to university full-time, is there a way to reflect the changing structure of courses that will evolve in the coming years?