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

It is not necessary to pass a law, to use the hon. Gentleman's phrase. However, it is necessary to strip away the universities' need to be defensive about their role in our broader educational system. They are part of the family, and we should welcome them as such. We should challenge and make demands on them. We should ensure that they can make a contribution. I have given a couple of examples of what they might do from my experience, and I am sure that all hon. Members could bring similar anecdotes to bear.

I know how deeply the Minister cares—not least because of his constituency experience—about ensuring that every youngster who can do so takes up the chance to go to university. At the moment, however, OFFA is a reactive body that is unable to inspect—I shall come to that on later amendments—and which in many ways is a pussy cat. What we need is a tiger to ensure that universities play their full part in education. If the Minister cannot accept the amendment as its stands, I hope very much that he will at least take away the thoughts that we have put on record. We should make OFFA an institution of which all parties can proud and which will survive not only this Government, but which an incoming Conservative Government will welcome in 30 year's time as well.

Several hon. Members rose—