My Lords, I declare my interest as professor of government at the University of Hull.
I want to make three quick points. First, it is vital to stress the value of higher education to the United Kingdom, not just in delivering world-class research and teaching, but in its crucial economic benefits, both nationally in the export of higher education and locally with respect to jobs and bringing students into the local community. I welcome the packages so far announced by the Government, but they do not yet fully deliver in enabling HE to do what is needed, especially in response to the present crisis.
Secondly, the regulations reinforce other packages so far announced and, indeed, existing features of our HE system, in favouring certain big institutions. This is conceded, in effect, in the impact section of the Explanatory Memorandum with regard to teaching-intensive and smaller providers. The cap, as both the noble Baroness, Lady Altmann, and the noble Lord, Lord Wood, have stressed, is likely to have an adverse effect, especially on students from widening participation backgrounds who tend to apply late in the cycle. There is a case for excluding them from the limit.
Thirdly, the regulations need to be complemented by greater support for universities to deliver more flexible learning opportunities to enable people of all ages to upskill and retrain, which will be crucial for economic recovery in the months and years ahead. Addressing fees needs to be part of a wider comprehensive and immediate package, designed to enable the HE sector to deliver what we expect of it and adapt to the fundamental challenges we now face. Perhaps my noble friend the Minister can explain what plans the Government have to assist those HE providers and students likely to be disadvantaged by these regulations, as well as what more will be done to enable HE to meet these challenges.