Clause 30 - General duties of relevant authority

Part of Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 4th March 2004.

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Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Education) 9:30 am, 4th March 2004

The Government do not need to introduce laws if they think that everything is right. So the clear implication is that Labour Members, the Minister and his boss, the Secretary of State, believe that universities are failing to admit students from poor social backgrounds and that that needs to change.

It has been interesting watching the Government in the various discussions about the access regulator. I hope that the Minister can clarify some points. All the discussions so far have been about the establishment of the plan, what is expected to be in the plan and the powers to levy a penalty if the plan is not implemented. What happens if that does not work? Let us suppose that it is four or five years down the

track. The university has got a plan, it has spent a bit of money, and it has given some bursaries to students. One of the interesting things about the comments that hon. Members have made about universities that are offering bursaries above the basic level to their undergraduates—an admirable initiative and I applaud universities for doing that—is that the students they are giving the bursaries to are probably already there, because every university has got a proportion of students from non-traditional backgrounds. I am not at all persuaded that the introduction of all those bursaries will suddenly lead to a wave of people from the estate mentioned by the hon. Member for Nottingham, North going to university. To some extent, I wish that it would, but I do not think that it will.