§ 8. Mrs. Liddell
To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairman of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council to discuss university funding. 
§ Mrs. Liddell
Will the Secretary of State seek an early meeting with the chairman of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council and place on the agenda a revision of the importance of higher education to Scotland's economic and social well-being? Will he also consider at that meeting the devastating effect on Scottish higher education of the 35 per cent. reduction over five years in the unit of resource available for each student currently in higher education? Failure to do so would show that the Secretary of State was weak, out of touch and determined to sell out Scotland's economic and social future.
§ Mr. Lang
I am afraid that the hon. Lady seems to have got her facts wrong, because not only do we recognise the importance of higher education but we have doubled the participation of the relevant age group in higher education since the Labour Government left power. We are making provision for a 2.5 per cent. expansion in student numbers next year.
§ Mr. Stewart
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there has been a steady increase in the number in higher education in Scotland, against a steady flow of forecasts from Opposition Members that the figures would go in the opposite direction? Is it not an indication of the Government's commitment to higher education in Scotland that, although Scotland has only 9 per cent. of the population, it provides 12 per cent. of the number in higher education in Great Britain?
§ Mr. Lang
My hon. Friend makes his point extremely well. He is right to say that we have been committed to the expansion of higher education and have been successfully delivering it. That has been done with no loss of quality. Indeed, some 30 per cent. of departments appraised recently were categorised as excellent.
§ Mr. Galbraith
When the Secretary of State meets the chairman of the Higher Education Funding Council, will he discuss with him the possibility of developing a much simpler system for assessing research in universities? Does he not realise that, under the current system, more time is spent on talking about past research and what will happen in the future than is spent on research in the present? Is it not time that we had a simpler system that encouraged research rather than taking up the time of bureaucrats?