§ 5. Mr. Trimble
To ask the Secretary of State for Education whether he will make a statement on arrangements for EC students pursuing third level courses in the United Kingdom.
§ Mr. Boswell
United Kingdolm higher education institutions have a strong tradition of internationalism and openness. Their popularity with students from other countries is a welcome indicator of the quality of the education they offer. EC action programmes have provided an added impetus. We fully meet our EC obligations to provide equal rights of access to higher education. Eligible students from other member states studying here may receive an award to cover the cost of their course fees to a specified maximum. Reciprocal rights apply to United Kingdom students studying elsewhere in the EC.
§ Mr. Trimble
Have the number of students involved, and the expense, increased substantially in the past few years? I understand that the cost of the awards that the Minister mentioned was over £41 million last year, and the cost to the education system may have been somewhat higher. Does the Minister agree that the burden does not fall equally throughout the country but on certain regions? Will steps be taken to compensate those regions for the burden that they have to bear, and will he make other provisions for students from those regions who consequently find it more difficult to get a place?
§ Mr. Boswell
There is undoubtedly a cost in grants of the order the hon. Gentleman suggests, although it is a gross cost. Against that must be set the large income 819 received from overseas countries as a result of overseas students coming here. That amount has been estimated at £1.5 billion.
The regional implications depend on the admissions policies of the institutions in question and on the policies of the various funding councils and their equivalent in Northern Ireland. I will draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to their attention.