Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 300 - 310)

MONDAY 13 MAY 2002


  300. It would be even more of a shame if this unique opportunity to do something really magnificent, going beyond what people would imagine the original inquiry was about, if you missed the opportunity to do something very serious to enrich our university system. I do sometimes worry that the voice coming out around this—I know we have not been able to prise much out of you today, Minister, because you are obviously bound by some sort of oath—but the fact of the matter is that members of this Committee feel this is an opportunity that can be wasted if the imagination is not alive to the real opportunities to transform our higher education system because we believe that the options are pretty tight. Here is an opportunity to expand the real resource that flows into higher education.
  (Margaret Hodge) I feel as passionately as I know you and the Committee do. I think higher education is at a crossroads now. There is a lot that we have to get right over the coming period in terms of investment in all the areas that we talked about earlier on. If we do not get it right, we will pay a heavy price, not tomorrow but five or ten years down the line. I feel that about student support as much as I do about higher education across the board. There are lots of ambitions around. We have got to meet as many of them as we can.

Valerie Davey

  301. Across departments, does that include social security, because quite a lot of the students I talk to want to expand into the benefit area as well. Has that been considered?
  (Margaret Hodge) We are looking at simplifying the current regime, particularly of targeted student support. The link between those students who most require support and the benefit system is something that we constantly keep under review. There is a lot of discussion between the two departments.

  302. Is the department part of this student review?
  (Margaret Hodge) They are certainly part of the targeted support work that we are doing and the simplification of that target support regime.

Mr Chaytor

  303. Can I clarify your previous reply to Jonathan Shaw? Will the proposals of your review group include a proposal to establish a nation-wide and universal scheme of support for further education?
  (Margaret Hodge) Again, you are asking me to preempt spending review decisions. All I would observe is that that so far has been the most effective lever that we have found to increase participation at 16 and to keep young people in full time education at 17. That is the evidence so far.


  304. Do you still believe the postcode premiums are very useful in terms of identifying students from less privileged backgrounds?
  (Margaret Hodge) I am pleased that HEFCE are doing a review to ensure that the additional money that is required to both give support to students and to ensure they get the appropriate teaching is targeted better at those who need it most. That review is appropriate.

  305. Can I ask you for one bit of cooperation? Obviously, the department has modelled the impact of the Barr/Crawford proposals. I would be very surprised if they have not. Can we have copies?
  (Margaret Hodge) What I would very happily do is two things. One, give you some examples of tables

 when I spoke about repayment profiles. The other thing that I think would be of interest to you is to look at the New Zealand experience.

  306. We would like to see that but we do not want a couple of bits of evidence. If you have modelled the Crawford/Barr suggestions, could we look at the modelling?
  (Margaret Hodge) I will reflect on what we can send you and I will send you as much as I am able to.

  307. Have you done an assessment of the impact of the Scottish Cubie type system? Have you anything you could send us on that?
  (Margaret Hodge) Probably there was work done around that. It is one of the options we have looked at and I will check in the department and write to you.

  308. It is the implications of what it would cost in England, to roll it out here.
  (Margaret Hodge) I will check to see what we have available.

  309. If you have anything, you will give it?
  (Margaret Hodge) I will check to see what we have that we can give you.

  310. Minister, as usual, it has been a pleasure to have you in front of the Committee.
  (Margaret Hodge) Thank you.

  Chairman: We have not got everything we sought, but we will see you again.

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