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Mr. Wallace: It is self-evident that the Scottish Parliament will not suddenly be able to make unlimited funds available for higher education. No one has pretended otherwise. However, the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) pointed out that the Scottish Parliament might well be able to find £2 million to ensure that English, Welsh and Northern Irish students can still come to Scottish universities and study on an equal basis for an honours degree. That is something that the hon. Gentleman and his party are not willing to do because they have such a mean-minded attitude. They realised early on that they had it wrong, and they do not have the guts or the courage to admit it. Perhaps in the remaining minutes and hours of this debate, they can see the light. There is joy in heaven over sinners that repent.

Mr. Canavan: I wish to make it clear at the outset that I am against all tuition fees. There was no mention of

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them in the Labour party manifesto, and during the general election campaign, the Prime Minister specifically said that Labour had no plans to introduce tuition fees. Whatever justification the Government may try to come up with for tuition fees in general, there surely can be no justification for the anomaly whereby one student at a Scottish university has to pay £3,000 in tuition fees, whereas another student in the same class doing the same course at the same university with the same parental financial circumstances has to pay £1,000 more. Ministers try to justify the unjustifiable when they say that there is some justice and equity in that. The net result will be a disincentive for many students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland to go to Scottish universities.

When the matter was previously debated, we were repeatedly told that there was no evidence for that. There is evidence--UCAS produced statistics, unfortunately just a few days after the previous debate on the subject. They clearly show that applications to Scottish universities are down by 4.5 per cent., that applications from England to Scottish universities are down by 4.1 per cent. and that those from Northern Ireland are down by 5.5 per cent.

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15 (Exempted business),

Question agreed to.

Lords amendment again considered.

Mr. Canavan: For some universities, the situation is even bleaker. In the past week, my capable researcher telephoned some universities and has produced some interesting statistics. For example, applications to Aberdeen university from England are down by 6 per cent. Applications from England and Wales to Dundee university are down by 13 per cent. and those from Northern Ireland are down by 22 per cent. Applications to Glasgow Caledonian from England are down by 13 per cent. Applications to Robert Gordon university from England are down by 39.4 per cent. Those from Wales are down by 47.6 per cent. and those from Northern Ireland are down by 5.45 per cent. At Strathclyde university, applications from England are down by 14 per cent.

If that trend continues, there is a genuine and justifiable fear for the viability of some of the four-year honours courses and the Scottish tradition of a broad-based education.

Mr. Swayne: Can the hon. Gentleman not see that there is an agenda here? The statement that A-level students and advanced students from England can enter at the second year contains the inevitable implication that the first year is remedial. That is the death knell for the distinctive Scottish four-year degree system.

Mr. Canavan: I would never describe the first year of a four-year honours degree course as remedial, but Scottish universities fear that if the trends in the statistics that I have quoted continue, there could be a long-term threat to the viability of the four-year honours course.

Mr. Jim Murphy: I should like to query two of my hon. Friend's points. I do not in any way wish to cast

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aspersions on the ability of his researcher. However, the Minister gave figures that are not in dispute when he spoke about a drop of 4 to 5 per cent. in applications from England to Scottish institutions. My hon. Friend has spoken about drops of 12 to 25 per cent. In which institutions have applications gone up, and do my hon. Friend's figures add up? His aggregate seems to be 12 to 25 per cent., but the actual figure is 5 per cent.

Mr. Canavan: My hon. Friend can get his own research team to prepare his speeches. I have quoted the work of my researcher, whom I trust very much.

The fear for the future of the four-year honours course at Scottish universities was exacerbated by the Minister in the previous debate on the issue. He said:

I appreciate that the Minister of State re-explained his remarks tonight, and that may be helpful. However, his use of the phrase "bogus tradition" in the previous debate caused deep offence in many Scottish universities.

I heard Ministers and hon. Members saying that students from England can go straight into the second year. That may be possible in some cases, for some individuals and for some courses, but it is not universally applicable. I have also heard Ministers say that Scots students go to university a year earlier than their English counterparts.

I heard the Prime Minister insinuating that this afternoon. He, of course, has some experience of Scottish education. He was educated at Fettes college, which is not exactly a typical Scottish comprehensive school; it is more like an English public school. He was nevertheless correct to draw a distinction between Scottish highers and English A-levels. Because Scottish pupils normally sit their highers in the fifth year, some have university entrance qualifications after five years' secondary education. Therefore, it is true that many Scottish students have university entrance qualifications at an earlier age than their English counterparts, but that does not necessarily mean that they go to university a year earlier.

I think of my experience, for example, both as a pupil and as a teacher. I left school at the age of 15 with university entrance qualifications. I was not particularly bright; it was just that I was kicked out of primary school a year early because the teachers were probably fed up with me asking too many awkward questions. I left school at 15, but I did not immediately go to university and, in retrospect, I am glad that I did not.

Later, when I was a teacher, many pupils--not just a few--aged 16 and 17 had university entrance qualifications after five years of study at secondary school, but, in general, my advice to them was to stay on at school for a further year and to do the certificate of sixth-year studies before going to university, because that sixth year would give them the chance to mature, to develop a habit of independent study and to do all the other things that help young people to make a success at university and in later life. However, my fear now is that the financial implications of the abolition of maintenance grants and the imposition of tuition fees will mean that

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some potential students may not go to university at all, and that others may, because of financial circumstances, go too early for their own good.

I come to the cost of the amendment. During the debate in the other place, the Minister seemed to pluck out of thin air this figure of £27 million. I do not think that it was mentioned in this House during the previous debate. Obviously, the civil servants have been working hard to try to justify the Government's stance in the other place, and that figure of £27 million was repeated by the Prime Minister last week--it is the amount required to meet the fees for all United Kingdom students on the fourth year of degree courses, at all universities throughout the UK.

That is not, with respect, comparing like with like. In England, a four-year degree course is exceptional, but in Scotland the four-year honours degree is the norm, rather than the exception. Besides, the Government's proposal will not cause a situation in any college or university in England, Wales or Northern Ireland whereby students from some parts of the UK have to pay more than students from another part, so the Scottish anomaly is unique. I understand that there is some difference of opinion about the technicality of the amendments and so on, but there would be a broad welcome if the Government were to give a signal that they would consider the uniqueness of the Scottish anomaly and think again.

About 3,500 non-Scottish UK students are in the final year of four-year honours courses at Scottish universities. If they were all paying full fees, the cost to the Treasury of getting rid of the anomaly would be £3.5 million. However, if we assume that, as the Government keep telling us, 30 or 40 per cent. of students are exempt from fees, and that another 30 per cent. pay only partial fees, the total cost would be about £2 million--as I said in the previous debate. I am pleased that the Government have since confirmed that figure as a fair estimate.

The cost would of course be split between three Departments--the Department for Education and Employment, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office. I fail to understand why my hon. Friend the Minister of State has drawn the short straw, by being lumbered with the responsibility of trying to explain the Government's policy. It would have been more appropriate for Ministers from the Department for Education and Employment, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office to try to justify the policy. My hon. Friend--to give him his due--said fairly early, even before the Bill was published, that he would ensure that the Scottish Office paid the final-year fees for students domiciled in Scotland. I do not know why his counterparts in the other Departments cannot do the same for students from south of the border, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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