Clause 30 - General duties of relevant authority

Part of Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 4th March 2004.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 10:45 am, 4th March 2004

Dare I say it, but perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not been paying attention to what I have been saying because I covered that point earlier. When I gave way to him before it was because he had indicated earlier that he wanted to intervene. I was just being patient and trying to get around to him after I had taken interventions from other hon. Members. Perhaps in the fullness of time we will hear whether he wants the director of fair access to deal with admissions rather than applications.

The hon. Gentleman raises the question of cause and effect, which my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell dealt with quite properly in his opening remarks. If we want children from the backgrounds to which the hon. Member for Nottingham, North referred to go to university, which is a laudable intention, we must examine standards and aspirations in schools and how they can be raised to encourage children to apply to universities.

We have spent a lot of time discussing Oxford and Cambridge—understandably, as the hon. Member for Cambridge is keen to discuss Cambridge—and other illustrious universities, such as Nottingham, which is near the top of the prestigious list of Russell group universities. Those universities have a relatively small student intake compared with the whole university population, and they are elite institutions that demand very high standards.

If such high numbers of students from the constituency of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North or anywhere else are to go to university, we must talk more about other universities, some of which have not received a look-in at all—certainly the new universities. It was very good of the hon. Lady to mention Anglia polytechnic university, but we have not heard any mention of other former polytechnics or the huge number of places on offer at excellent universities, such as Leeds, Manchester, and Hull, which is represented by the Minister. I am sure that he knows Hull university well.

I am not sure whether Hull university is a member of the Russell group, but the standard of teaching and quality of university life there is second to none. To add a word of praise, I know that it does a tremendous amount of work helping local people get into education. I am told that the cost of living is very

cheap as well, but the right hon. Gentleman can probably tell us more about that. We must talk about those universities as well as the elite institutions.