Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-62)|
2 JUNE 2008
Q60 Ian Stewart: It is interesting
and to your credit, Martin, that you did attract a person like
me into Manchester Universitya person who has no academic
qualificationsin the absence of a system which attracted
me, it was very useful to be able to reach that level. I personally
have an interest in developing the concept of the scholarly MP
and consequently I actually pay my own fees and therefore I am
conscious of the impact of that, even on a salary of £60,000
odd like mine. On behalf of my constituents I have to think about
those who do not earn salaries like that and the impact on them.
I was very keen when we took the vote on the Bill to press the
Government about ensuring that if we did pass this Bill that we
reviewed it properly and of course the outcome of that was there
was to be a review of the three years, as you are aware, and the
setting up of the commission to work with OFFA to inform that
review. In a publication produced in March, OFFA said that the
independent commission due to review the fees in 2009 will be
working with OFFA, but OFFA states in its most recent report to
Parliament that "our analysis shows that the first year (2006-07)
of the new student finance system was remarkably successful".
Would it be reasonable to conclude that OFFA's role in the review
next year is going to be that of a strong supporter of a variable
Professor Sir Martin Harris: I
think the answer to that is, and you said this earlier, Ian, that
on the evidence thus far we have not seen the dire consequences
in terms of social participation that some were convinced would
happen. I would go further and I have no ideaI know that
nobody has begun to think about this yetbut any submission
I might make to such a commission as and when it is established
would say that over and above the bursary system we do need to
do the very things that we have been talking about in terms of
greatly increasing our outreach into schools and I would say especially
11 to 16 schools. The syllabus in a 16 to 18 school or FE college,
what an individual student can do is often irrevocably determined
by things that have happened in an 11 to 16 school. We have to
start as early as we can in these processes.
Q61 Ian Stewart: Is there a level
for tuition fees above which students from disadvantaged backgrounds
will be deterred from progressing to higher education?
Professor Sir Martin Harris: If
I were writing a report myselfthis is Martin Harris speaking
now and not the Director of OFFAwhat I would say is this
that in any raising of the fee beyond £3,000 the extra fee
has to be reimbursed fully by the university, not by the treasury,
to those students who are below an income level predetermined
by Parliament. The treasury will not put any more money in.
Q62 Ian Stewart: We currently have
25% of variable fees above the threshold to be recycled for bursaries.
If that percentage was raised would that widen access?
Professor Sir Martin Harris: I
do not think so for the reasons I have explained. If I were putting
extra resources in it would be in schools-related projects.
Chairman: On that note, may I thank Professor
Sir Martin Harris for your attendance this afternoon.