Clause 30 - General duties of relevant authority

Part of Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 4th March 2004.

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Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen Labour, Nottingham North 10:15 am, 4th March 2004

No, I do not. We are all in this together—it is a classic case of joined-up thinking. We must get universities working with secondary schools, and primary schools working with the under-fives. Sure Start needs to work through. There has to be a continuum, so that people who do not go to university can continue lifelong learning in some other way.

Universities sometimes see themselves as slightly apart from the rest of the educational system, but I am talking not only about education. I am offering my right hon. Friend the Minister the chance to draw the universities in so that they are willing to play a serious part in overcoming some of the deep problems encountered by my constituents and those of many of my colleagues. To take the argument slightly wider, we must link the issue with the way in which secondary schools deal with their local police, antisocial behaviour orders and discipline. We should not force schools to include people who will lower standards for those who are desperately trying to claw their way up the attainment ladder. So, the issue is far broader and involves health, policing and many other things.

To return to the Bill, however, OFFA gives us the chance, if we are prepared to take it, of drawing universities into the educational family. They would not merely be talent scouts but could bring their tremendous expertise to bear on deeper problems. Solving those problems will require us to tackle attainment at secondary, primary and pre-school level.

Let me give one final example. I have done a lot of work on social behaviour as opposed to antisocial behaviour. As soon as I discussed my proposals with Sir Colin Campbell and Neil Gorman—the two vice-chancellors of Nottingham's universities—they put the resources of their relevant departments at my disposal. That is a tiny example, but people working in child psychiatry or researching sexual health issues will now be at my disposal and at that of secondary schools in my constituency. That is one benefit of universities reuniting with the populations that they are meant to serve.