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My right honourable friend John Deham launched a wide-ranging debate on the future of higher education. He signalled a desire to develop a 10 to 15-year framework for the future of higher education, which is why today’s debate has been so helpful. The higher education sector is changing rapidly in an international context. We know that other countries are developing fast. For example, the number of Chinese graduates tripled between 2001 and 2006 to more than 3.5 million per

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year. We have a world-class higher education system, but we cannot rest on our laurels. By launching the 10 to 15 year framework for the future of higher education, my right honourable friend opened up a series of discussions which will allow the Government to gather the opinions of those who work and study in higher education. The result of this work will be a dynamic and wide-ranging document that sets out the framework within which the higher education sector will develop and thrive during the next 10 to 15 years. This framework will help to ensure that higher education meets the growing and challenging demands of the 21st century; it will provide a reference point for future policy-making decisions; and it will enable progress to be measured objectively and transparently. It is the Government’s intention to set this framework before, importantly, reviewing undergraduate variable fees in 2009.

The way in which we are approaching this debate has been welcomed, as I am sure all noble Lords have seen. We have asked a number of distinguished contributors to provide advice to us on a series of strategic questions about the future of higher education. They are questions about the international role of our universities, about the consequences of demographic changes during the next decade and beyond—highlighted today by my noble friend Lady Morris and by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing—and about teaching and the experience that students have in higher education. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, reminded us, all students—those in custody as well as those in higher education institutions—are important. Those questions are also about part-time provision, which has been highlighted by many noble Lords today. As the noble Lord, Lord Luce, said, they are a very important group of students in university. They are questions about how universities use intellectual property and the income from research, and about careers in research.

My right honourable friend has asked distinguished colleagues to look at how academics can contribute more effectively to public policy-making, on which I think noble Lords will have views. As the noble Lord, Lord Rix, suggested, they will look at how we understand the performance of our universities as the higher education sector both in this country and abroad becomes more diverse and the environment in which it operates becomes increasingly challenging. They will look, too, at widening access to higher education through more transparent admissions processes, through improved partnership with, and recruitment from, further education colleges, and at making scientific, engineering and maths degrees a realistic goal for the most talented of our young people, whatever their background.

In his speech, my right honourable friend used a phrase that bears repeating. He said that in producing our framework, we would not only look at what government should do but also set out what universities “should aspire to achieve”. We have respect for the autonomy of the university system in this country, which is an important point made by noble Lords today, first of all by the noble Lord, Lord Luce.

However, to talk only of autonomy is not enough. As the noble Lord, Lord Norton, suggested, we need to be clear about our goals. We need a shared vision of what it will mean to be world class in higher education

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as the world changes around us with bewildering speed. The Government’s challenge is to set the right policy framework with the right incentives to achieve a world-class system overall. The Government have earned the credibility to lead this debate, but in partnership with an autonomous sector. Our track record in sustaining investment and facing up to unpopular choices means that we are a partner with which universities can work with confidence.

We are determined not to allow the analysis that we have rightly asked for in this debate to lead to paralysis. We are still determined to go forward and continue making decisions in the mean time. A recent example was the new university challenge, which was highlighted by my noble friend Lady Morris. It will enable 20 towns and cities to develop university centres, bringing higher education closer to those with the potential to benefit from it.

I shall try to respond to the many points made in the debate. If I do not do so adequately here, I will endeavour to write to noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Luce, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and others spoke about the importance of part-time student support. This Government were the first to make financial support available to part-time students. We see their role as being increasingly important in higher education, and we know that, as the student body becomes more diverse in the future, it is a challenge to which we must respond.

Many Peers highlighted concerns about our forthcoming fees review. My noble friend Lord Desai, in celebrating the 17th anniversary of his maiden speech, made a bold proposal on that question. However, as we have said previously, there will be an independent review of the first three years of the new fee arrangements. It will be wide ranging. The draft terms of reference that we published in January 2004 said that it would cover not only participation and retention rates but issues such as the impact on teaching, students’ choice of subjects and graduate destinations.

The noble Lord, Lord Dearing, spoke about many things with, as ever, great eloquence, but touched on the importance of meeting the challenge on skills. We know that the proportion of working-age adults holding qualifications at level 4 or above is increasing, from 25 per cent in 2001 to 31 per cent in 2007. We are not complacent: we believe that our 40 per cent ambition is achievable. However, many countries are already exceeding 40 per cent. We know that we have the opportunity, because 6 million adults hold only level 3 qualifications. We want to see them stretched and able to achieve their level 4. There is an important skills debate to be had, and universities have an enormous amount to contribute.

The noble Lords, Lord Luce, Lord Broers and Lord Patten, and my noble friend Lady Warwick and many others mentioned the importance of funding, its volume and its diversity. By 2011, we will have increased funding for universities by 30 per cent in real terms since 1997. Funding per student will stay constant in real terms at the same time as we introduce fees that bring in an extra £1.3 billion annually to universities. My noble friend Lady Warwick would, I think, be surprised if I went further and made commitments beyond this CSR period, but I heard what she said.

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We have also committed to diversity of funding and encouraged universities to develop their research partnerships. We have asked students to share the costs of higher education and, as some noble Lords mentioned, we have introduced our matched-funding scheme to support voluntary giving, which will use £200 million of public funds to lever in £400 million in donations. That is very important. As the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said, we should be proud of the increasing entrepreneurial success of the university sector in this country. I agree with her on that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Morris, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, and the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, talked about widening participation. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp: we should not confuse widening participation with fair access. There are debates to be had on both. For the record, university participation among the four lowest socio-economic groups rose from 17.5 per cent in 2002 to 19 per cent in 2006. I congratulate all those higher education institutions who have worked hard, through their outreach work and by working with the “Aim Higher” scheme, to increase success in widening participation. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, that we are working very hard to create an integrated information and application process. The noble Baroness is right: all the strands of information that help students to make choices about student finance and university courses should be made far more streamlined. We will be launching an integrated system in September, through Student Finance England.

The interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, gave Ministers in this Government the opportunity to congratulate the University of Oxford on its outreach work and recruiting more students from state schools. While the noble Lord may talk about pointing guns, I talk about pointing funding. We point that funding at many targets, including schools, further education colleges and such initiatives as “Aim Higher”. The noble Lord, Lord Butler, said clearly how important the role of schools is in widening participation. I agree with him.

The noble Lord, Lord Janner, raised an important point about recognising the devastating effect that anti-Semitism and other hate crimes can have on those university students who experience them. My department takes this very seriously and I hope it will be able to work positively with the sector and all those involved in the All-Party Group on Anti-Semitism. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, talked about extremism in higher education and the need to tackle it more widely. I congratulate my honourable friend Bill Rammell, who is leading a debate in higher education at the moment, on the role of academic freedom in combating extremism. The right to speak out, espousing views that are sometimes extreme, is very much a core value of this country, and something that we would like to ensure that all those involved in higher education can be proud of. The noble Baroness highlighted that the DIUS has produced guidance for universities on how to promote and reinforce shared values, support mainstream voices who want to speak out, break down segregation among different communities, and ensure that every student feels safe on campus. These

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guidelines have been widely circulated. They include practical information about booking rooms and managing external speakers. I hope they are helpful in providing practical support to those working in the sector.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, the noble Lords, Lord Butler and Lord Bew, talked about research. Of course, research is an enormously important part of higher education. By 2011 government funding for the UK research base will have risen to around £4 billion, from £1.3 billion in 1997. I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, whether her party would be prepared to show a similar commitment to funding the science base in the UK. I would be tremendously supportive of that commitment if it could be made. We are committed to ensuring that the UK maintains its reputation for world-class research. The new Research Excellence Framework will recognise and support excellent research of all kinds in all disciplines, wherever that research is being carried out. That means across the sector. The new metrics-based assessment system will enable academics to spend more time on high-quality research. It is being tested and piloted; I would not call that a delay. I would call it an important piece of work that has been supported by the sector and by research. The new system will be in place, when it has been tried and tested, by 2014.

The noble Lords, Lord Smith, Lord Broers and Lord Lewis, and others talked specifically about science. Science funding has increased with regard to the research base. It has increased significantly, doubling in real terms under this Government. It must continue to increase, and will do so over the next three years. We are very clear about how the Research Funding Council’s independence will work. It is important that the Government and research councils have distinct roles. We will see funding in three streams, looking at sustaining world-class research within the UK; harnessing research to tackle such key challenges as climate change; and increasing the impact on the economy through collaboration between research and business. On another note, noble Lords should be reassured that we have seen significant increases in the numbers of people applying to study maths, science and engineering. I remember, in the last debate on higher education that I took part in as a Back-Bencher, talking about the need to see more people coming forward to study science at university. I am delighted that it is starting to happen.

The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, and the noble Lord, Lord Norton, talked about the need to tackle regulation within higher education. I take that very seriously. We are making progress, but we are not complacent; a lot more needs to be done. My noble friend Lady Warwick and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about the importance of international scholarships. I want to be clear that DfID is increasing its funding of scholarship programmes. I know that there are concerns, but I say again that the Government are committed to increasing funding for overseas scholarships.

The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, raised her concerns about the strategy for education of the health and social care workforce. The DIUS and the DoH work together on many matters, not least the questions raised by the noble Baroness. The Darzi review will be

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out soon. There is a great deal of contact between the two departments. I hope that the higher education sector can respond to the NHS as an extremely important future employer. Through the review, we should make sure that the environment exists to make that possible.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about devolution, which I care about very much. I would be very concerned if we saw devolution adding to inequality. We do not necessarily have to be the same in Wales and England, but we have to see opportunities for all potential graduates and postgraduates across the UK. My right honourable friend John Denham will, in his review, be looking at research in particular across the UK. It is also an important issue for Wales.

This has been an important debate. I will make sure that all noble Lords’ comments are fed back to the department, and are heard and looked at carefully. I close by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Luce, again for securing this important debate.

2.19 pm

Lord Luce: My Lords, it is my pleasure to thank all noble Lords for the quality of their speeches and the Minister for her extensive reply. A strength of this Chamber is that it can be reflective and think long term. This was my purpose in asking for this debate on higher education.

So many big guns from the field of higher education have contributed that it would be invidious of me to pick out any one speaker, save to say that the range of knowledge, experience and wisdom that we have heard today was self-evident to everybody. Despite the tight discipline that had to be shown as regards the length of our speeches, noble Lords made a wide range of significant and important points. Notwithstanding the Minister’s difficulty recalling the title of the Secretary of State, I very much hope that she and her colleagues will think carefully about the issues that we raised. I cannot resist asking what other second Chamber in the world today would produce the range of wisdom and experience on this subject or any other that we have heard today. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Equality Bill

2.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to set out to the House today how the Government propose to make further progress towards the fair and equal society that we want to see.

“I am pleased to announce that we are today publishing our key proposals for the Equality Bill in a document entitled Framework for a Fairer Future. Copies are available in the Vote Office.

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“For us, equality is a matter of principle; it always has been. As the Prime Minister set out on Wednesday in his announcement on social mobility, we want to address the serious inequalities that still exist. Addressing these inequalities and creating a fairer society are important for three reasons. First, fairness is important for the individual. No one should have to put up with discrimination. Secondly, fairness is important for our society. A society that is equal and fair is one that is more at ease with itself. Thirdly, fairness is important for our economy. An economy that sees no one pushed to the margins or excluded brings the widest pool of workers to employers. Diversity makes us outward-facing and helps us to compete in the global economy.

“The first equality law was brought in by a Labour Government more than 40 years ago. Progress has been made to outlaw discrimination against you if you are black, if you are a woman, if you are lesbian or gay, if you are disabled or if you are older. But though progress has been made, inequality and discrimination still persist. Men who work full time still earn 40 per cent more per hour than women who work part time. Though more disabled people are now working than ever before, a disabled person is still two and a half times more likely to be out of work. If you are black or Asian, you are less likely to be in work and, if you are in work, you are more likely to be earning below the level of your qualifications. Homophobic bullying still blights the lives of most lesbian or gay young people and it is still perfectly lawful to tell someone, ‘Sorry, you’re too old’, to refuse anything from healthcare to insurance.

“The Bill and package of measures that I will outline to the House today represent a radical shift in our approach to fighting unfairness and breathe fresh life into our equality agenda. Our package of measures includes the Equality Bill that we promised in our previous manifesto, secondary legislation and action by the new Equality and Human Rights Commission. We expect everyone—the public sector firms that do business with the public sector and companies in the private sector—to play their part.

“On pay, at the current rate of progress, it will take another 80 years before women are paid the same as men. It is impossible to tackle discrimination when it is hidden. That is why we want a new era of openness when it comes to pay so that women can see, in their own workplace, just how much more men get paid than they do. Just as every school has to publish its exam results, so that parents can see, and every hospital has to publish its waiting lists, so that patients can see, I want employers to report on key equality issues such as gender pay, so that their employees can see. This will put the spotlight on pay unfairness, which we all know goes on but which stays swept under the carpet.

“Under its legal duties to promote equality, the public sector will lead by example, but 80 per cent of people are employed in the private sector, where the pay gap is double that of the public sector, so we must have progress on fairness in the private sector. We will do that in five ways, through the fact that

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30 per cent of all companies do £160 billion-worth of business with the public sector and by considering how public procurement can be used to deliver transparency and change. The Equality Bill will outlaw clauses in employment contracts that prohibit employees from disclosing their pay to one another. Where an employer has been found to have unlawfully discriminated, we will provide for the employment tribunal to be able to make a recommendation applying not just to the successful complainant but to everyone in that workplace. The Equality and Human Rights Commission will conduct inquiries under its legal powers into sectors where most progress needs to be made, starting with the financial services sector. We are going to tackle sexism in the City. Through a new kite-mark system, we will challenge companies to report on equality.

“We expect that business will equally regard reporting on its progress on equality as an important part of explaining to investors, employees and others the prospects for the company. We will review progress on transparency and its contribution to the achievement of equality outcomes and, in light of this, consider within the next five years using existing legislation to achieve greater transparency in company reporting on equality.

“Many people still seem to think that it is perfectly acceptable to discriminate against someone because they are older. It is not and, with the number of people over 85 set to double over the next 20 years, it makes no sense. People are not over the hill at 60 to be either refused insurance or discriminated against in healthcare. We will lay down in the Equality Bill duties on the public sector to eliminate age discrimination and promote equality for older people. We will take powers to outlaw age discrimination in the provision of goods and services. We will need to allow for a transitional period for changes to be made to comply with the law before it comes into effect, but work is already under way, and we will consult on making provisions to bring the new law into force more quickly in those sectors that are ready to comply with the law.

“On disability, too, we need to be able to see who is including disabled people in their workforce and who is shutting them out. That way, we can see who is making progress year on year, compare comparable organisations, learn from the best and challenge the worst.

“We need to make further progress on fairness. That is why we will legislate to give more scope for employers, if they want to increase the number of women or black or Asian employees, to take positive action. This will help the police, for example, who want to make more progress on diversity because they know that they can be most effective when they reflect the ethnicity of the communities that they serve. To allow progress on women’s representation in the House of Commons to continue, we will extend the permission for all-women shortlists for parliamentary selection until 2030. We will consider with the Commissioner for Public Appointments

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whether a specific power to encourage diversity for public appointments within her remit would assist her in this task.

“Next month I will publish a further paper setting out our proposals in greater detail and over the coming months there will be a continuous and determined programme of further action, which will include considering whether there is a case for representative actions to employment tribunals, working out whether we can toughen the law to give redress to people who suffer discrimination on multiple grounds and working with the trade unions to strengthen the excellent and pioneering work of trade union equality representatives in the workplace.

“This package will see us make further progress towards a fair and equal society. A single statute to replace the complex web of legislation that has grown up over the years will make it easier for people to see their rights and understand their obligations. The Equality Bill will be written in plain English alongside the necessary legal language.

“In the past, when Labour has brought in laws to promote equality, they have been controversial. I hope that now, in the 21st century, there will be agreement that we must all play our part in making this country fairer”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

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