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Baroness Lockwood moved Amendment No. 102:

After Clause 16, insert the following new clause--

Report on monitoring of acceptance of courses

(" .--(1) The Secretary of State shall monitor and report on the acceptance to courses of higher education of persons, having regard to--
(a) personal or spouse's income;
(b) parental income;
(c) ethnic background;
(d) gender;
(e) any registered disabilities; and
(f) mode of attendance at an institution.
(2) Any report made under this section shall be laid before both Houses of Parliament within twelve months of the beginning of each academic year.

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(3) For the purposes of this section, any government department, or other organisation determined by the Secretary of State, shall provide such information as may be requested by the Secretary of State.
(4) In subsection (2) "the beginning of each academic year" shall be taken as the first day in September.").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to monitor the impact of the proposed new funding arrangements on access to courses in higher education.

The amendment would require the Secretary of State to monitor on an annual basis the effects that the changes in funding arrangements would have on different levels of individuals and on social groups and sub-groups within the potential university population. It would also require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament on an annual basis. It is a probing amendment, and I do not want to take up too much time, nor to rehearse many of the arguments that have taken place during the course of our debates today.

My noble friend Lady Blackstone, both at Second Reading and in her remarks today, was anxious to underline her belief that these new funding arrangements will not have a deterrent effect on students, that safeguards are being built into the system to ensure that under the new arrangements loans will be repayable on the basis of ability to pay, and that lower-income groups will be excused from having to pay the new fee and therefore access will not be affected. I think all of us in this place are concerned about access and are anxious to increase access from lower-income groups.

The reality of the situation may well be, as my noble friend put it, that students will be no worse off under the proposed new arrangements than under the existing ones. But perceptions could be quite different. Indeed the perceptions expressed in the debates today have been, let us say, very variable--and perceptions can be a very strong emotive force.

Therefore it is important that we put in motion steps to monitor in quite a detailed way the effects that these changes will have. That will be particularly important in the earlier years of the new arrangements. It will be especially important for us to see whether or not there are differing effects on different sections of the community, and whether it is necessary to take any remedial action either to try to stop or to improve a process.

I hope therefore that my noble friend the Minister is able to inform the Committee and reassure us that there will be a proper monitoring system following the introduction of these changes. I beg to move.

Lord Tope: I wish to give our very warm support to the intention of this amendment, so eloquently moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood. As she rightly says, we may all have our perceptions of what is going to happen; we probably all have our perceptions and beliefs in relation to what is happening, and has happened. But none of us will actually know unless the monitoring takes place.

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I am sorry for delaying the Minister slightly in rising: however, I hope she is about to give us the assurances that were sought. The intention of this amendment is extremely important. I hope the Minister will tell us that all of this is going to happen in a proper and satisfactory way, and that we shall receive the reports that are sought.

Baroness Blackstone: My noble friend Baroness Lockwood is right to stress that we need full, reliable and public information about the entry into higher education of different groups in society. We recognise that there are still important differences in rates of participation by different groups. We are committed to taking steps to reduce those differences as part of our overall aim of expanding access to higher education.

Clearly we need to keep track of progress. We intend to monitor the impact of the new student support system. I therefore welcome the spirit of my noble friend's amendment and accept what the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said. I hope, however, that my noble friend will not undervalue the information that is already available on a non-statutory basis. The Higher Education Statistics Agency and the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, in particular, collect and publish a wealth of information. Statistics on student numbers by gender and ethnic group, by disability and by mode of study are published annually in some detail by HESA. Information on socio-economic groups is published by UCAS for the majority of full-time higher education entrants. Information on students' finances is provided by the Student Income and Expenditure Survey.

As the Dearing Committee pointed out, there are some gaps and weaknesses in the data. For example, information on mature and part-time students is less comprehensive than for young full-time entrants. Information covering students in higher education institutions needs to be brought together with information on those studying on higher education courses in further education colleges.

Work is in hand to improve the data. We fully intend to take this forward and to improve the information available to both Parliament and the public. However, a lot of work remains to be done to achieve the comprehensive data framework envisaged by Dearing. Those involved are working constructively on a voluntary basis. I believe it would be premature to impose a statutory requirement and might even introduce an element of suspicion and protectiveness that could be harmful to the prospects for improvement. When so much progress has been made on a voluntary basis, I would be reluctant to hang the threat of compulsion over those concerned.

In addition to seeking better information in the longer term, we are committed to assessing the impact of the new system of student support. My department already has in place a programme of evaluation work to assess the impact of the new policies on participation in higher education of different types of student. The programme will include analysis of participation data of the types listed in the amendment. We also plan to commission

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research, which may include examining the influences on decisions to enter higher education. I can assure the House that the key results of our monitoring and research will be published and available to Parliament.

I hope that my noble friend will accept my assurance that we are committed to improving the quality of information on entry to higher education by building on existing non-statutory arrangements and to monitoring the new system and that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Lockwood: I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for the sympathetic way in which she dealt with the amendment and for her detailed reply, which I shall study with interest and care. On the basis of her assurances, in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 agreed to.

10.45 p.m.

Clause 18 [Imposition of conditions as to fees at further or higher education institutions]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 103:

Page 13, line 46, leave out first ("specified") and insert ("prescribed").

The noble Baroness said: In speaking to Amendment No. 103 I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 110, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125 and 126.

During our debate at Second Reading a number of Members of your Lordships' House expressed concern about Clause 18 and about the breadth of powers that they believed the Government were seeking. I sought then to provide reassurance that what we were seeking was simply a reserve power to require, through conditions of grant, that universities and colleges limit the fees that they charge to certain students, essentially home and EU full-time undergraduates and PGCE students. We see a need for such a reserve power in order to be able to reassure students and their parents that tuition will continue to be free for home and EU full-time undergraduates and PGCE students from lower income families and that parents will be expected to contribute no more than under present arrangements.

We also believe that students should choose higher education institutions and courses on the basis of what would be most appropriate for their needs, rather than on the cost of tuition; but it is not our purpose to control the fee levels generally for part-time students, postgraduate students or overseas students for whom we make no direct financial support available, nor are we seeking power for the Secretary of State to set university fees generally.

I undertook to bring forward clarifying amendments to Clause 18 at Committee stage with a view to ensuring that our intentions were quite clear, and I have now tabled a number of amendments to fulfil that undertaking.

Amendments Nos. 103 and 105 make provisions for the classes of student and types of course that are to be covered by any condition controlling top-up fees on

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higher education courses to be prescribed in regulations rather than specified by the Secretary of State in conditions. I know that noble Lords have expressed reservations about approving powers for the Government to make regulations without knowing the content of such regulations. We have therefore placed in the Library a first draft of the regulations that we would seek to make under Clause 18 if Members of your Lordships' House agree that we should do so. The draft will no doubt need further refinement in the light of consultations with the CVCP, but it should serve to indicate that the classes of student we wish to protect from top-up fees are, broadly speaking, home and EU students who have not previously received public financial support to undertake higher education. Universities will continue to be able to charge higher fees to those home students who have exhausted their entitlement to public financial support on a previous full-time course.

I hope that this will reassure the noble Lord, Lord Soulsby. I am afraid that he is not in his place. He expressed concern at Second Reading about veterinary schools' continuing power to charge higher fees to self-financing students. Universities will also be able to continue charging higher fees to overseas students. Amendment No. 109 puts this beyond doubt by providing on the face of the Bill that conditions may only control fees paid by students connected with the United Kingdom as determined by regulations under the Education (Fees and Awards) Act 1983.

Conditions may not therefore be used to prevent institutions from charging higher fees for overseas students, as permitted by the Education (Fees and Awards) Regulations 1997 currently in force.

Amendments Nos. 106 to 107 make it clear that conditions can only be imposed in relation to a class of students if the maximum amount of grant to fees has been prescribed to such students under regulations made under Clause 16(2)(b). In other words, if no grant is to be made available under such regulations for, say, postgraduate or part-time fees, then a condition cannot be imposed to control postgraduates' or part-timers' fees.

The draft regulations make clear that the courses we intend to be subject to conditions of grant are the same as those courses in publicly funded universities and colleges for which mandatory awards are currently available and for which in future grants for fees are likely to be provided. We therefore intend to refer to full-time or sandwich undergraduate courses leading to a first degree or diploma and courses of initial teacher training including PGCE courses whether part-time or full-time.

So as to leave no room for doubt, Amendment No. 110 provides specifically that conditions may not impose controls on fees for part-time or postgraduate courses, other than courses of initial teacher training--that is, PGCE courses.

Finally, Amendment No. 104 removes the scope for the Secretary of State to specify the types of fees covered by condition. Fees are now just defined in Clause 20. We recognise that that definition may not

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be perfect. We do not, for instance, intend to restrict universities and colleges in the charges that they make for board and lodging or field trips and are therefore willing to consider amending as appropriate that definition of fees in the light of further consultations with the CVCPs. In the meantime, I hope that Members of the Committee will be reassured about our intentions and accept the amendments. Amendments Nos. 121 to 126 make identical amendments to the parallel provisions in the Scottish Clause 22. We commend them to the Committee also. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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