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Baroness Park of Monmouth: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Davies, has overlooked one or two points. I would not describe Northern Ireland as full of rich people. It is filled with rather poor people who at this particular moment more than any other need reassurance that we support them. They are bound to be thinking that it is strange, to say the least, that students from Eire will be getting an advantage and that they will not. That is the first point.
Except for the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth,--incidentally, I strongly support his feeling about the importance of the Union--no one has spoken enough about the anxieties felt in Scotland both among students and their teachers about the future of the four-year course. On the advice of the Government, the influx of students into the second year is distorting it and can only continue to do so. That is bad for education. According to the Association of University Teachers and others, they are anxious that this measure may bring universities to consider a three-year course. In turn, that will have an impact on what is taught at the top level in secondary schools in Scotland. There will be a complete educational upheaval, which is nonsense when we are talking about a relatively small sum of money. That is the second point.
I come back to the general matter of fairness. It is difficult for any student to understand how it can be fair that someone from Portugal who lives in this country will gain advantage while someone from England, Northern Ireland or Wales will not. It is not an issue of rich and poor but a question of fairness. The noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, told an excellent story about questions on the radio. It is very curious indeed that, having just put the Treaty of Amsterdam through this House, when we talked about everyone being a citizen of the Union--including us, I suppose--suddenly for the purposes of this Bill we are not citizens of the Union. We do not have the advantages of any other member of the European Union. That is very strange.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, will in future desist from using the Orwellian argument, "Mr. Jones will come back". It is not for me to defend the record of the party physically on my left, and the noble Lord knows that it has not been my habit to do so. But it is not relevant to the debate on this amendment. If the noble Lord wants to challenge me or my Benches to a contest on concern for people from poorer backgrounds, I will take him up on that any time. We do not have to keep the House waiting to listen to it.
I am glad that my noble friend said what he did about the danger of national separation in universities. When I went across the water to Yale I found one of the world's great universities. I will never say otherwise. But it did disconcert me deeply to find a national flag carried in front at a degree ceremony. We do not want to get that in what we believe should remain the United Kingdom.
I have one further point. We have here discrimination by national origin within the European Union. That bears a prima facie appearance of contravening Article 7 of the Treaty of Rome. I raised this point in Committee and the Minister replied that the Government were "confident". I have heard that before. When the Minister replies, I hope that he can give me better reasons than that for believing that what the Government are now doing will not result in our ending up in court.
Baroness Strange: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish because I am on the councils of both Dundee and St. Andrews universities. I studied at Dundee and graduated from St. Andrews because at the time they were one and the same university. I should like to advise noble Lords opposite who have been going on about paying fees that I paid my own fees, which were £25 a year. I paid them by working at picking soft fruit and potatoes. I lived at home and I hitchhiked in because I could not afford the bus fare.
Lord Sewel: My Lords, oh to be in St. Etienne now that Scotland is there! I think that I share a certain fellow feeling with Mr. Jim Leighton this evening, but I hope that he has more success than I am likely to have. We have had this debate several times previously and it is not surprising that a number of the arguments and, indeed, a number of the personalities and characters involved have reappeared, even down to what is now the standing army of relatives of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.
Perhaps I may deal first with a point raised by the "diagonal Opposition" and in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth. The Government are not in any sense relying on the Salisbury convention in the context of this debate. That simply does not arise in any way, shape or form.
Although we have been around this track a number of times in this House and in another place, it is clear that there is still much misunderstanding over why the Secretary of State for Scotland decided to introduce a concession on fees for Scottish students in the fourth or additional year of the generally longer honours degree courses offered in Scotland.
It has to be remembered that Scottish universities and colleges are not the only institutions in the United Kingdom which provide four-year honours degree courses. There are institutions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland which also provide such courses. The concession made for Scottish students is not intended to be a subsidy for Scottish institutions at the expense of those institutions elsewhere in the United Kingdom which provide four-year honours degree courses; rather, it is intended to compensate Scottish students who may enter university after having received only one year's education after the statutory school leaving age, often at the age of only 17.
To some extent, I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, that an increasing number of Scottish students are going to university a year later, at 18, not, however, following an integrated two-year course, as is the case in England, but having taken two separate lots of Highers. The degree of intellectual development involved in adding up the number of Highers that one has gained is very different from the intellectual development involved in the two-year integrated A-level course. That is why it has always been recognised that because of the earlier starting point--in the past "earlier" meant in terms of chronological age but is now taken in the sense of the student's intellectual development--a four-year course is more appropriate for Scottish students than is a three-year course. Those studying in Scotland and those studying in the rest of the UK finish at the same point in terms of intellectual development. That is why, in line with the recommendation in both the Dearing and Garrick reports, most Scottish students will not be required to pay tuition fees in the additional year, which is, typically, the fourth year.
The other point that can be made about Scottish students' intellectual development at the start of their university degree can be seen from the low proportion of Scottish school students who attend English universities. It is a very restricted and narrow flow. It is difficult to make the transition across the two very different systems in that direction. It is much easier to make the transition from south to north.
Students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland spend longer in school education before entering university. Indeed, not only do they spend longer at school, but they go further in their school education. They spend two years studying an integrated A-level course or its equivalent. There is no reason why, having had that extra year's school education, they too should have one year's tuition fees paid for them regardless of their family's income just because they attend Scottish universities rather than universities in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. If we are concerned about poor students from Northern Ireland--and I am concerned--I must point out that such students will not pay that amount because they will be covered by the income factor.
Scottish higher education rightly has a high reputation. I have been proud to be a member of the Scottish higher education system for nearly 30 years. I have a commitment--the Government have a commitment--to maintaining that high standard. We
The Motions tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay, will benefit only those who can well afford to pay fees for a fourth year. It amounts to a subsidy for the better off and runs counter to the Dearing principle that those who benefit from higher education should share the costs.
In any case, in choosing to undertake a four-year course at a Scottish institution, UK students not ordinarily resident in Scotland have already made a decision to forgo potential earnings and to take on extra maintenance costs by choosing to study for an extra year.
Taken together, the additional costs of doing an extra year in a Scottish university amount to approximately £20,000, taking forgone earnings into account. The additional fee of £1,000 is 5 per cent. of the total cost which is the product of the decision to attend a Scottish, as opposed to an English, university and to take a four-year degree there.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, may say that it is not the 5 per cent. that counts, but the principle. That principle is equality of treatment across the United Kingdom for Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students alike. That is superficially an attractive argument but it does not bear that much scrutiny. It was the Dearing inquiry, in the light of representations from its Scottish Standing Committee (the Garrick Committee), that recommended that Scottish students at Scottish institutions should not have to pay for one of the four years that they must normally spend to acquire an honours degree. The reasoning behind this was clearly concerned with equity. It was to compensate Scottish students who had had one fewer year's education at public expense before entering university. On that reasoning there are no grounds for giving English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students the same concession of a free year's tuition.
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