Clause 30 - General duties of relevant authority

Part of Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:45 am on 4th March 2004.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Education) 9:45 am, 4th March 2004

That is a perfectly fair point. We have two scenarios. If what I say is right and the body is, as the Minister says, one with teeth that will indirectly compel universities to change the application processes for students, the social mix will change. I accept that. At the same time, universities will admit people on subjective rather than objective grounds. There will be those who pass exams who do not get places, and those who do not pass exams who do get places. If I am right, that will happen, so the hon. Member for Bury, North is absolutely right: five years down the track that will not be an issue because the interference is happening now.

I have a question for the Minister. Let us assume that the hon. Member for Bury, North is right and the body is a light-touch regulator. The Government are clearly determined to ensure that there is change in universities. So what happens in five years if things have not worked? The regulator clearly has powers to put pressure on universities at the very least. What are the Government planning to do in those circumstances? It is hard to believe that this is all simply about having a plan, and that all that matters is that every university has a strategy and does not have to deliver anything. The access regulator becomes a much less problematic creature if that is all that we are talking about, but I do not believe that we are. Nothing in the Government's record convinces me that they simply intend that the plans will sit on the shelf.