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.

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

The Conservatives understand that perfectly well. I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of the hon. Member for Nottingham, North when he talks about his constituency and his constituents. Our point is that the university admissions process will not solve the problem. Of course, people's aspirations should be addressed. The difference between us is that the Conservatives believe that the Government are seeking to gerrymander the university admissions process by pressing the universities to sort out a problem that should be solved elsewhere. The problem lies in the absence not only of choice in inner-city schools, but of Government determination to stamp out failure in many parts of our education system. The Government tolerate the fact that many school-leavers are unable to read or write, and they tolerate the culture that the hon. Member for Nottingham, North talked about.

Those problems cannot be dealt with by the higher education admissions system. That is where we differ: we believe that this measure is the wrong solution to the problem and an unwarranted interference with the university admissions process. It fails totally to reflect the good work that has been done already in many universities, and it is an inappropriate gerrymandering exercise that interferes with universities' independence

in a way in which politicians have never done in the past. We passionately believe that this measure should not be in the Bill.