Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Sixth Special Report

Annex: Letter from the Chairman of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee to the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills


The Committee has considered the Government's Response to its Report on the withdrawal of funding for ELQs. We shall publish the Response as a Special Report next week. The Committee was, however, uneasy about the tone of the Government's Response. In particular, we were concerned that the Government in justifying its stance on our key recommendations ascribes views to the Committee which are not in our Report.

We concluded that where resources were switched in line with the Government's priorities, it had a responsibility to demonstrate that there was unmet demand and that the reallocation produced outcomes in line with the policy (paragraph 12 of the Report). In the Response the Government expresses itself surprised "by the apparent implication that there is no-one of working age who would benefit from a university education who is not currently getting one". At no point in the Report did we make such an assertion. As we made clear in the Report, the Government has to show convincing evidence that the re-allocation of the resources will meet its policy objective to encourage more suitably qualified individuals to start higher education for the first-time. In the absence of research on, or any analysis of, the groups to whom the redirected resources are targeted, we could not see how the Government is certain that the funds taken from ELQ fees will meet their intended purpose efficiently or effectively (paragraph 23). We are disappointed that the Government should not have accepted what appears to us to be an axiomatic principle of good government—that the re-allocation of resources to meet a policy should be underpinned with evidence that it will change the behaviour of individuals or groups as the Government intends—and sought to bolster its position with an erroneous construction of the Committee's position.

The Committee is pleased that the Government acknowledges that it made a mistake in not supplying us with a memorandum at the start of our inquiry into ELQs. Some of the material supplied in the Government's Response would have been of assistance to us had it been supplied during our inquiry. We are grateful for the assurance that the department will provide written submissions for our future inquiries.

We shall publish this letter as an annex to the Special Report.

June 2008

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