Clause 30 - General duties of relevant authority

Part of Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:00 am on 4th March 2004.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North 10:00 am, 4th March 2004

I am happily surprised by the hon. Gentleman's intervention, which is pertinent to the debate. No one should run away with the idea that OFFA will become a body that revolutionises education for most people in this country, but it can contribute even in its current weak form. It could make an even better contribution to help those youngsters to whom the hon. Gentleman referred.

In addition, the role of the Committee is to improve legislation. Whether we win or lose Divisions, by our very debates I hope that we will influence the minds of not only the Minister and his officials, but the vice-chancellors who read our debates. I have not yet heard anyone in Committee say that they are totally satisfied with the way universities bridge into the community.

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important distinction between—to use a footballing analogy—the scouting of talent, which universities are doing in their different ways quite well, and the building of a football academy for six to 11-year-olds for training and skills a little earlier on. Perhaps we need to look to vice-chancellors to become far more a part of the education family, rather than just scouting for and picking out the youngsters who have got through an unnecessarily testing educational experience to make it to the top.