Amendment to the Motion

Part of Higher Education (Fee Limits and Student Support) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords at 4:51 pm on 2nd July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Wallace of Tankerness Lord Wallace of Tankerness Liberal Democrat 4:51 pm, 2nd July 2020

My Lords, I endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and my noble friend Lord Campbell of Pittenweem with regard to the devolution aspect of this matter.

I was somewhat nonplussed when I read the draft Explanatory Memorandum, which states:

“This entire instrument applies to England only … The instrument does not have any minor or consequential effects outside England.”

One needs only to read the letters to the UK Universities Minister from her counterparts in Scotland and Wales to realise that the implications for Scotland and Wales, and no doubt Northern Ireland, are far from minor. How does the Minister justify what is in the Explanatory Memorandum?

I have a series of questions. Do the Government believe that, post pandemic, the UK Government, in co-operation with the devolved Administrations, should develop policies that sustain the principle of student mobility across the UK? The number controls announced on 4 May by the UK Government included no reference to Scottish institutions, nor were they expected by Universities UK or Universities Scotland. What happened between 4 May and the publication of these regulations? What specific allegations, if any, were made of predatory offer-making by Scottish institutions, and what specific discussions were held with individual Scottish HEIs and Universities Scotland? Is it the case that no sanctions will apply to students being funded privately rather than through the Student Loans Company? Is that what is meant by “levelling up”?

Does the Minister accept that Scottish universities will be disproportionately disadvantaged because the number to which the percentage is applied to control numbers is being applied to much lower actual numbers? Why are institutions in the devolved countries able to bid for only 50% of the additional places, with a more limited range of subjects? Given the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan, about the implications for the union, did the Minister for the Union express any view on these proposals and their formulation from the standpoint of wishing to strengthen the United Kingdom, or was Boris Johnson also duped into believing that the regulations applied to England only?