Clause 30 - General duties of relevant authority

Part of Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:00 am on 4th March 2004.

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Photo of James Clappison James Clappison Conservative, Hertsmere 11:00 am, 4th March 2004

No, the Committee will have to accept that I have been generous in giving way. I put it to Labour Members that the proposal is unfair on universities and applicants and will cause a deep sense of resentment of the type that the hon. Member for Nottingham, North described. It will be unfair on the wider public, too, because it will inevitably result in a dilution of standards in our universities. They will not be allowed—particularly the most prestigious institutions—to select and admit students purely on

merit, but will have to apply other criteria as well. Standards will suffer and the country will suffer from that. Our universities will be less competitive than those of other countries that admit strictly on merit.

What will happen to the individuals who have been turned down because of something that is wrong about the type of school that they have attended, or in their background? They will be left with a long and lingering sense of resentment. They will certainly, in many cases, feel that they have not attended the university of their choice. It will be interesting to see whether many choose to go to universities in other countries where such discrimination is not practised. Labour Members should not be under any illusion. Some may welcome the measure, but it will put huge financial pressure on universities and put people at risk of discrimination.