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 5:13 pm on 2nd July 2020.

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Photo of Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale Labour 5:13 pm, 2nd July 2020

My Lords, my entry in the register includes a number of education and young people-related interests, in particular as chancellor of the University of Stirling. I recall back in 1981-82 when the then university principal, Sir Kenneth Alexander, and I, as student president, launched a controversial proposal to lift the cap on student numbers —which at that time was imposed by the University Grants Committee on every department of every university in the country—allowing universities to attract students based on the attractiveness of their courses and the qualifications that they could then achieve.

While I recognise the need for stability at the moment, in this particular year, I would be grateful if the Minister would make clear that this is a temporary measure, that it will last for only one year, and that universities and students will again have that relationship in the future. I want to associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on the scandalous level of unconditional offers, of the noble Lord, Lord Wei, on innovation, and of my noble friend Lord Wood on access—which were particularly relevant in relation to individual students. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Bassam, for raising this issue.

University funding in Scotland is indeed devolved and the debate on it should take place in another place, but universities in Scotland are part of the UK system. Therefore, it is important that those universities are taken into consideration when the Government put in place a forward plan on research and on international students that will help the university sector to come out of this lockdown period.

Finally, I am very aware of the fact that, across the country, 17 and 18 year-olds have been very badly affected by this lockdown period in terms of their motivation, ambitions for the future and fears about the situation. Will the Government take into account the mental state of our teenagers at this time, following such a long period of lockdown in schools, and build it into the proposals they then put in place to try to reinvigorate not just our university sector, but our education system as a whole?