§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to repeat a Statement made in the other place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. The Statement is as follows:
"Mr. Speaker, I should like to make a Statement about the Government's proposals for education for all young people over the age of 16.
"More young people than ever before are taking up education and training opportunities. Six out of ten 16 year-olds stayed on in full-time education last autumn compared with four out of 10 in 1979. Three out of four 17 year-olds are in education or training today compared with two out of four 10 years ago. One in five 18 and 19 year-olds now continue into higher education, compared with one in eight 10 years ago. More adults are also taking advantage of the educational opportunities available. All 16 and 17 year-olds in this country have a guarantee of a place in full-time education or training if they choose to take advantage of it. We secure places for all those people who wish to go on into higher education and are suitably qualified.
"We need to build on these achievements. That means developing more vocational qualifications of a standard that will win equal esteem with the best academic qualifications. It means giving schools, colleges and universities the institutional freedom and the necessary incentives to develop and respond to the demands of young people and of employers. The Government are setting themselves the aim of achieving mass participation in higher education, further education and training while maintaining and enhancing present high standards.
"The Government's proposals are contained in three White Papers which are being published today. The necessary legislation to implement the proposals will be brought before the House in due course.
"I turn first to the White Paper Education and Training for the 21st Century which I present to Parliament with my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Employment and for Wales. This sets out new policies for education and training after compulsory school age. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for 36 Employment will describe the new training policies in a further Statement to the House and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is presenting his proposals in a separate White Paper.
"The White Paper sets out in detail the Government's proposals for further education colleges and sixth form colleges. As I announced to the House on 21st March we intend that these colleges will become autonomous institutions outside local authority control.
"The colleges will be funded by national further education councils in England and in Wales. They will receive each year a core budget plus additional funds according to the actual number of students enrolled. In this way they will have a powerful incentive to recruit and retain additional students, both young people and adults. The councils will not manage the colleges. They will follow the model of the funding council that has so successfully steered the remarkable growth of the polytechnics after we freed them from the control of local government.
"Vocational qualifications have for too long been misunderstood and undervalued in this country. The White Paper sets out how the introduction of a clear structure of national vocational qualifications can be accelerated. The range of qualifications will meet the needs of students of all abilities. At level 3, they will be set at a high standard equivalent to A-levels.
"A-levels are successful and well respected examinations which are being taken by steadily increasing numbers of pupils. I am determined to see them maintained and to control their development so that their high standard is preserved. I am writing today to the School Examinations and Assessment Council setting out my views on the principles which should govern the development of A-level and AS examinations. These principles are designed to ensure consistency of standards between AS and A-levels and to provide a framework for increasing numbers of young people to pursue courses of academic study which can be broadened by increasing the take-up of AS examinations. A copy of my letter has been placed in the Library of the House.
"A and AS courses are not the only route to excellence and to higher education. We must do more to promote understanding among students, employers and higher education institutions of the value and quality of national vocational qualifications at equivalent standard. The Government have therefore decided to introduce new diplomas at advanced and ordinary levels. The advanced diploma will be awarded to students taking AS and A-levels, to students gaining vocational qualifications of the same standard, and to students taking a mixture of the two. I intend to consult on the details later this summer.
"The White Paper describes two further measures which are directed at schools. First, the Government intend to legislate to adjust the school leaving date. At present some 16 year-olds are able to leave school legally at Easter before completing 37 key stage 4 of the national curriculum and before their GCSE examinations. We shall introduce legislation to require all pupils to complete their studies at the end of the summer term. This will ensure that all pupils will have their level of attainment. at the end of their compulsory education properly assessed.
"Secondly, I believe that we should allow both schools and colleges of all kinds to broaden the range of courses and opportunities which they offer. The White Paper therefore announces the intention to introduce legislation which would enable school sixth forms to admit part-time students and adults. The main work of sixth forms will continue to be for young people studying full time. They will have greater freedom to take on other students if they wish and if there is room.
"In higher education, we need to build on the successes of recent years. The academics in our universities may sometimes grumble but they are to be congratulated on their progress in expanding access to more students in recent years while maintaining the best academic standards in the developed world. The polytechnics and colleges, freed from the the control of local authorities, have also demonstrated that rapid expansion and improvements in quality can go hand in hand. The Government congratulate the polytechnics and colleges on what they have achieved, particularly in widening access to higher education and in developing vocational courses. The formal distinctions between universities on the one hand and polytechnics and colleges on the other, known as the binary line, have in my opinion now become an obstacle to further progress. The Government propose to abolish these distinctions and establish a single framework for higher education.
"With my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, I am presenting to Parliament today a White Paper setting out the main features of our proposals.
"First, we shall establish a single funding structure for universities, polytechnics and colleges of higher education. In order to reflect particular needs in Scotland and Wales, there will be separate higher education funding councils in England, Scotland and Wales to distribute public funds for both teaching and research. New links will be established to continue the present close relationship with Northern Ireland's exiting unitary structure.
"Secondly, the Council for National Academic Awards has successfully brought the polytechnics and other major institutions to a position where they can offer degrees under their own quality control arrangements equal in standard to those offered by the universities. We propose therefore to extend degree awarding powers to polytechnics and major institutions and to wind up the Council for National Academic Awards. We shall, however, look to universities, polytechnics and colleges to develop their own quality audit arrangements on a UK-wide basis. We shall also require the higher 38 education funding councils to establish quality assessment units to advise the councils on the relative quality of teaching and learning across institutions so that those judgments of quality can inform the distribution of public funding.
"Thirdly, we shall extend the title of university to those polytechnics which wish to use it. It is our firm intention nevertheless that the present distinctive features of the polytechnics, with their particular emphasis on links with industry, vocational degree and sub-degree courses, and applied research, should be retained.
"The Government believe that this new framework will provide for an expanding, thriving and diverse system of higher education in the United Kingdom. Our policies are designed to ensure that higher education continues to expand efficiently alongside improvements in quality. When we came into office only one in eight of the relevant age group went into higher education. Now it is one in five. By the end of this decade we expect one in three of all young people to benefit from higher education of our traditional high quality.
"Mr. Speaker, I feel privileged to present these two White Papers to the House this afternoon. They will transform post-school education and training. They will enhance the esteem of vocational education. They will benefit ever larger numbers of students, from all backgrounds and at all levels. Our policies pave the way for a better society and greater economic success. I commend them to the House."
§ My Lords, that concludes the Statement.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. When, a few weeks ago, without warning or consultation the Government announced that further education was to be taken out of local authority control I made clear in my response to the Statement then made in this House that no educational arguments had been produced in support of the change now elaborated on by the Government. It has been introduced for ideological reasons as part of the Government's long-standing and doctrinaire hostility to local government. It has been introduced to reduce educational spending at the local level by £2 billion in order to help the Government out of their poll tax quagmire. The change has been roundly condemned by many Conservative councillors working in local government and responsible for education.
For 12 years the Government have failed to address the crucial question of how to improve the provision of further education. They have sat back and ignored low participation rates. Recently, on their own admission, they have recognised that we have fallen further behind our neighbours and competitors in relation to those staying-on rates.
Only three years ago the Government produced the biggest piece of educational legislation since the war. They told us that it would provide all the solutions to raising educational standards and would establish the 39 necessary structures. Now we are faced with yet another set of changes which will disrupt the education service at local level.
Only three years ago the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science in another place said:We believe that there is a need for strategic planning in further education".How are we to plan further education strategically with sixth forms left in the schools under LEAs and sixth-form colleges and FE colleges under a new funding council? How can a single, centralised council sensibly plan for local provision— FE colleges are local, unlike polytechnics and universities— with as many as 600 separate institutions? There is also a built-in division between the LEAs and the schools on the one hand and the new funding council and the colleges on the other.
Only three years ago the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science said:We have great confidence that local authorities will fulfil their duty to promote further education".Why the change?
I now turn to the subject of A-levels and qualifications for 18 or 19 year-olds. The Government have yet again failed to concede the argument that A-levels are over-specialised, in some respects over academic, and also that far too many young people fail them or even take them. It appears that the Government have failed to concede the argument about the jungle of vocational qualifications, although we must hear a little more about that matter. Yet again the Government appear to have done nothing to resolve the problem. The solution that they have put forward looks nothing more than a messy and poor compromise. It appears to leave A-levels and AS-levels under the umbrella of an advanced diploma.
The Government are wholly isolated in believing that A-levels should be retained. The Royal Society, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Institute of Physics, the CBI and ACOST have recently said that it is time that A-levels went. I simply cannot understand why the Government will not listen to expert advice on the matter.
The Statement that we have heard is totally unclear about the Government's intentions in respect of the new diplomas at advanced and ordinary level. For example, what relation will they have to NVQ level 3? Will the diplomas clear away the existing jungle? How will they relate to the A-level and AS-level which are to be retained? The key issue is that by retaining A-levels the Government appear to be perpetuating and reinforcing the divide that so many people wish to see abolished.
All young people need to benefit from some academic study of the fundamentals and some vocational study about their application. The Statement appears to be another lost opportunity to bring that about because it clings to a structure which will not overcome the fact that 90 per cent. of young people in this country do not study mathematics after the age of 16 whereas 90 per cent. of young people in Japan study mathematics until the age of 18.
40 The Royal Society represents Britain's greatest scientists. It recently stated that high standards are not achieved by the in-depth study of three subjects, pumping young people with knowledge. They are achieved by encouraging young people to make links across the curriculum and by developing analytical capacity and creativity. In so doing the society has endorsed the Labour Party's proposals for a genuine advanced diploma, not an umbrella which will begin to leak in no time and will turn inside out as soon as the wind blows.
I wish to welcome some of the long overdue measures being proposed to adjust the school leaving date. All young people should complete five years of secondary education. I also welcome the decision to allow some students to study part time in the sixth form. That is a helpful move to increase flexibility and to keep young people participating in education who otherwise might not do so.
I now turn to the proposals for higher education. We welcome the Government's belated recognition of the strength of the case that the Labour Party has put forward for years to extend opportunities for higher education, to end the binary divide and to establish a joint funding council. For a long time we have advocated the amalgamation of the PCFC and UFC. Only three years ago when the issue was discussed during the passage through Parliament of the Education Reform Bill, Ministers rejected the proposal.
We also welcome the fact that the Government will enable the polytechnics to award their own degrees and change their status. However, I regret that the Government are unconvincing about the way in which they will carry through such changes and what they will do to safeguard standards and the quality of teaching and research already under great pressure as a result of chronic underfunding. The vital issue of quality assurance is left hanging. The institutions are being asked to develop their own quality audit. I am unconvinced that all 600 FE colleges will be capable of achieving that. Will the Minister tell the House how the Government will maintain quality?
I wish to ask the Minister several further questions. First, is access to higher education to depend on the ability to benefit, as the Labour Party believes it should, or will the Government make access dependent on the ability to pay? For example, will the Minister categorically rule out top-up fees as a means of financing expansion?
Will the Minister say what resources the Government will now commit to make good the desperate backlog of polytechnic and university maintenance, given that the £650 million of expenditure on polytechnic buildings identified as long ago as 1989 in the Hunter Report and the more than £180 million identified by the CVCP for the universities has yet to be found? How can expansion take place and quality be maintained, as the Statement implies, unless the resources are provided?
The Statement does not mention research. What commitments are the Government making to research? Finally, does the Minister acknowledge that the polytechnics, which were set up by the Labour 41 Party, have made a distinctive contribution to higher education, combining the vocational and academic and pioneering broader access and other innovations? How will the Government ensure that under a single funding council those excellent characteristics will be maintained?
What do the Government intend to do about adult education? We have received more than one assurance in this House that the White Paper will deal with that. Yet again, this Statement totally ignores it. Fortunately. the Labour Party has a much more coherent set of solutions as regards FE and HE than those which we have heard today. Those solutions have wide backing. It will not be too long before, in government. we are able to implement them.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, from these Benches we thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement. The subject is of great importance. The White Paper, which we have not yet been able to read, is comprehensive and a glimpse at it shows that we shall no doubt be debating it at some length. Therefore, I shall he brief. I had hoped that on a subject of this kind, on which on all sides of the House we are determined that there should be great improvement, we could have had a non-party approach to the discussion.
I welcome the main point of the White Paper; namely, the commitment by the Government to a large-scale expansion of higher education in various forms. We have all known for a long time that that is one of the greatest needs in this country today. We hope that the Government will get on with it as quickly as possible.
I welcome also the abolition at last of the binary divide. It has been nonsense for a long time. There were historical and understandable reasons for it but we must catch up with history. Perhaps some parties are slower to join the race than others. However, at least that has now happened.
I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that it is a pity that the approach to A-levels has been something of a compromise, to put it mildly. I welcome the strong support for the NVQs. I am glad that they will be incorporated into what will, in effect, be a combined A-level.
I have not had time to study what is in the White Paper but on the face of it there seems to be something of a muddle. The old A-level and S-level are to be retained but incorporated into the system under the umbrella of a diploma will be national vocational qualifications. One hopes that this is an interim stage and that we can move on without too much delay to achieve a comprehensive A-level which embraces all options and gives variety and depth at the same time. I accept that that is not easy to achieve. However, it is important that the depth should remain.
I find interesting the part-time sixth form approach and allowing adults into sixth forms. The suggestion may be contained in the White Paper but in the Statement there is no reference to tertiary colleges. It seems to me that they present the best opportunity for 16 to 18 year-olds to mix in an easy way with adult society and to learn from other students coming from industry for part-time study what is going on in the 42 world of work. Those people will actually be there. It will not merely be their superiors telling them about it. I believe that the development of tertiary colleges is the best way ahead for 16 to 18 year-olds.
I do not wish to undermine the sixth forms, which will remain. I understand that teachers in schools wish to retain them, as I should if I were a teacher in a school. However, I believe that the tertiary college direction is better than trying to reinforce sixth forms in schools.
I am concerned about standards and quality. The Government say that they are determined to maintain quality. Quality will be maintained only if there is sufficient money and if there are methods of testing that quality exists in the large number of polytechnics across the country. Those who have worked in those colleges in one way or another over the years will know that standards vary considerably. Some have done outstandingly good work, while others, to put it bluntly, have not. We wish to be assured that quality will be maintained. What will be put in place of the CNAA safeguard which is to be abolished?
Finally, it will not surprise the Minister that I ask her about adult education. Adult education has been the Cinderella and there is no statutory obligation; and yet it has never before been as important to strengthen adult education. I know that there is provision for adult education in many further education colleges, but there are colleges which are adults colleges and technically not further education colleges. Many of those colleges have been a matter for pride in our education system. Will they be adequately maintained under the new system?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Baronesses because I appreciate how short is the notice. I am amazed at the number of specific and rather detailed questions which have, nevertheless, been raised.
I welcome particularly the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who appealed to the House to take an apolitical approach to the subject, which was not the impression from the contribution of the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. If there is a criticism as regards ideology, I hope that it will apply to us all. We should all be idealistic about our worries over young people and their education and training.
If the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, had listened to what I said when I repeated the Statement, she would realise that far from falling further behind our competitors on participation rates, the evidence shows that participation rates have gradually increased. They are not good enough and we know that there is more to do. However, we believe that these proposals will help to increase participation rates and that we shall reach the target of one in three participating in higher education. There is a vast improvement on 1979 figures.
Much has been said about the retention of A-levels. We remain wholly unapologetic about their retention. We believe that there is room in the education system for in-depth academic study and we should not deny schools the opportunity to pursue it. We have introduced considerable flexibility for education for 43 post-14 year-olds by modifying the national curriculum, by introducing vocational courses and also by introducing BTEC foundation courses into schools.
Vocational courses are now given the same parity of esteem as academic courses. The application and introduction of diplomas, which will be awarded for achievements both in vocational and academic courses—and it will be one or the other, or a mixture of both—will go a very long way towards improving the education and training of our young people.
The noble Baroness referred also to the percentage of students not studying maths after the age of 16. When the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan. first said that there was something wrong with the education system it was precisely that kind of comment and criticism that persuaded this Government to do something in regard to improving it. That is the reason the national curriculum insists that all children throughout their school life study maths, English and science core subjects; that is, from the age of 5 to 16. That ensures that there will not be young people in school dropping subjects at a whim. They will have to see the subject through. I was pleased that the noble Baroness accepted that they should not see them through only to the age of 16, but through to the end of the academic year in which they reach 16. That is important.
We have a framework of the national curriculum, the core subjects, vocational qualifications, reformed examination system and the introduction of diplomas recognising excellence in both vocational and academic subjects. Far from there not being a strategy and there existing a "ragbag"—I believe that was the phrase used—there is a coherence, a continuum and a strategy that will serve our young people well.
On the specific point concerning top-up fees, the setting of fees is properly for an individual higher education institution. There are no plans that tuition fees will be required of award-holding students beyond the sums met on their behalf under the award arrangements. In regard to funding, our commitment to awarding higher education its fair share of public expenditure is clear. For the second year running public funds have increased by 10 per cent. They are renewed annually. I wonder whether I could persuade the noble Baroness to say whether the Labour Party will fund the state fees of all people going into further education and training. Open access, fully-funded, would cost in the region of £ 7 billion to meet in full. I am not sure that the noble Baroness will say that.
In regard to research we decided that the new mechanism needed to replace general research funds distributed through the UFC should be a single channel along the lines of the present UFC alongside research council specific funding. That allows co-ordination of the handling of research and teaching within and between institutions as well as providing a better overview of the financial position of individual institutions. It will now be open to polytechnics and colleges to receive general research funding from the new funding councils.
44 The noble Baroness asked whether there was anything in the papers regarding tertiary colleges. I am happy to say that they are properly recognised as being an important part of the educational structure. We have always been cautious about being overprescriptive in regard to the specific structure for education and training post-16. Nevertheless, they are properly recognised and no doubt the noble Baroness will return to the subject at another time. The same applies for adult education colleges. Without taking up too much of the House's time it is difficult to go into more detail.
On the last important point in regard to quality assurance, the Secretary of State will be in consultation with all interested parties concerned with the criteria for awarding degrees; in other words, the criteria against which colleges which are given powers to award their own degrees will be judged, and also status and title. Again, that will be a matter of concern.
The principle of inspection and of quality assurance will apply right across the higher education sector. We know that there will be a vacuum when CNAA goes. It is our view that the quality audit unit which will be responsible for degree-awarding powers will ensure that validation arrangements are in place and, more importantly, that they are working properly.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in view of the immense importance of the Statement which she has just made many noble Lords hope that an early opportunity will be given to the House to debate this issue, which is of such enormous and long standing importance to the whole country? As my noble friend the Leader of the House is present I hope that he will take note of this view and arrange for an early full day's debate to take place.
In regard to the merits of the matter, perhaps I may say how much I welcome the clear-cut decision to separate higher education as a whole from that part which is administered by the local authorities. The distinction was blurred under the previous situation. From the point of view of financing it was a little confused. Is my noble friend aware that I and many other people greatly welcome putting the whole of higher education under the funding council and in a separate category? Is she aware also that those of us who take that view undoubtedly find it supported by the great progress which the polytechnics made once they were separated from local authority control and put under their own separate categorisation?
I welcome enormously the decision to grant to the polytechnics the right to award degrees. A number of young people who could perhaps have profited most from attending a polytechnic struggled to obtain a university place so that, at the end of the day, they could obtain a degree which they felt would be a qualification to assist them in obtaining various employments. The new decision deals with that situation and is an admirable measure.
I thank my noble friend for reading the Statement. It is one that any of us could comment upon at great length, but I shall restrain myself. I ask her to accept 45 that many of us feel that it is one of the most important steps that this Government have taken in the 12 years of their existence.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, before we come to the major debate, which I hope will take place, I should like to ask the Minister a question on one specific point. Will the Minister take back to the Secretary of State the idea that he should consider one specific point.
§ Lord Cavendish of Furness
My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt. The convention is for the questions to be taken one at a time and be answered individually.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I shall be brief. I welcome the comments of my noble friend. I shall ensure that the usual channels are aware of the request for this important subject to be debated without delay. I welcome also the comments on separation—one need only look at the success and the way in which the polytechnic and college sector flourished when it broke away from education authorities. The education authorities will come to realise that it makes sense. I agree with my noble friend in all that he said in regard to the status of polytechnics and their ability to award degrees.
§ Lord Taylor of Blackburn
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, can she inform her noble friend that polytechnics have been issuing degrees for many years.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, we are not speaking of issuing degrees. Self-validation is the key point. I know what my noble friend meant. The significance is that in future they will be their own degrees as opposed to university degrees.
§ Baroness Blackstone
My Lords, it is important that the House should be clear. Polytechnics have not been issuing university degrees. Universities have had nothing to do with that for many years. The polytechnics have been issuing degrees of the Council for National Academic Awards.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the noble Baroness is correct. I am saying that the difference will be that polytechnics will be able to validate their own degrees, and that is significant.
§ Lord Beloff
My Lords, perhaps I could now ask my question. I should like to ask that one particular point be looked at again before legislation comes before us. It relates to sixth form colleges. I concede all the arguments dealing with higher and further education. However, sixth form colleges are not part of the higher and further education system. They are an extension of schooling. As the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, pointed out in our debate on education, it is difficult to see how they can be separated from local schools in any effective way.
I did some homework on the matter. I went to my local sixth form college to speak to their politics 46 society about the proceedings of the House, in which they were interested. I discovered that there we have a collection of youngsters drawn from the five secondary schools in the vicinity and a few a little further away, from Brighton. The students at that college are studying A-levels and also working for vocational qualifications. The GCSE examinations are being taken again either because the students have not done well enough or new subjects are being studied to be added to the total. It is an avenue into further and higher education, but it is not part of it. Therefore, it is extraordinary that this provision should be made national unless the whole schooling system is to be changed. If it is to be changed then the simplest measure would be to return to all secondary schools their sixth forms. If they are to feed into the sixth form colleges then the present local arrangements should be looked at. If they are not satisfactory perhaps we can find out why they are not.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the sixth form colleges take 16 year-olds quite separately from the school institutions. In other words, the schools with sixth forms keep their sixth formers in house. Sixth form colleges are separate and are increasingly like FE colleges. Much of what my noble friend has described happens in many of our further education colleges. Many of our further education colleges provide for GCSEs to be resat and offer a mixture of academic and vocational courses. The Government took the view that separate 16-plus institutions deserved the same freedom as all the other separate post-16 educational institutions.
§ Baroness David
My Lords, is the Minister aware that at the moment sixth form colleges are treated as coming under the school regulations? Is there now to be an end of school regulations and abolition of the difference between those and further education regulations? That is an interesting point. Will the LEAs have compensation for not only the buildings but the land which will be handed over to the new funding council? That is a very important matter, particularly if new buildings are being thought of. As the noble Baroness will know, at the moment that is a question in our own county of Cambridgeshire. It is a question of whether the county will make available land for a new college of further education when it is not quite sure whether it will have control of it later.
I have one further question concerning the diploma at ordinary level. The diploma at advanced level is mentioned in paragraph 10 of the Statement and it is explained, but nothing is said about the diploma at ordinary level. Am I to understand that that diploma is instead of the GCSE or in addition, or what?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, it will not be instead of the GCSE. When the noble Baroness has more time and is able to read further, she will see that there are to be discussions about the scope of the application of the diplomas and what will constitute measures towards gaining a diploma both at ordinary level and advanced level. As regards the sixth forms, all institutions in the new sector will operate under a common regulatory framework. I am fishing around 47 very quickly to find a specific answer on pay and conditions. I do not have detailed information. The noble Baroness is absolutely right. The further and higher education system operates with very different pay and conditions. The sixth form colleges operate under school conditions. I shall write to the noble Baroness and I shall be more specific on that point.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am sorry. There will be a transfer of land. That will operate under the very same conditions as those which apply to the polytechnic sector. That which constitutes the institutional land and property will be transferred.
§ Lord Rochester
My Lords, as I understand the position, under the latest version of the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions (No.2) Bill the pay of sixth form college teachers is to be determined by a review body. Following the enactment of the Bill, if legislation is to be introduced which means that the pay of sixth form college teachers is to be determined on a completely different basis, does that not place sixth form teachers in an invidious position?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I have to say the same thing to the noble Lord as I said to the noble Baroness. It will be quite wrong of me to indulge in any kind of guesswork on this matter. I do not have specific answers to those questions on pay and conditions. I shall ensure that I inform both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness in writing.
§ Baroness Hollis of Heigham
My Lords, will the Minister confirm that students at sixth forms studying part-time for A-levels will be eligible for income support? That would certainly be welcome. In the Statement the Minister has insisted that the Government are retaining the AS and A-levels. About 15 months ago I surveyed eight or 10 secondary schools in my area. I found that almost none of them could afford or had the resources to run both A-level and AS-level courses in the same subject where the syllabus was different: an example was history. As a result a school might offer 17 or 20 A-levels but barely a handful of AS-levels. The schools did not have the resources even though the universities would have welcomed the qualifications and their breadth. Does that not suggest to the Minister that the time has come to scrap that divide which schools find too expensive to bridge and instead to go along the lines of the Professor Higginson A-levels or the baccalaureate style suggested by my noble friend Lady Blackstone.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, on a number of occasions I believe that I have answered similar questions across the Dispatch Box about what one local authority can do as opposed to another. Many schools throughout the land are managing on a similar funding basis to provide both A and AS-levels. When the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was speaking she said that A-levels were over-specialised and 48 over-academic. It is an insult to our young people if we say that they should not specialise and that they should not pursue academic subjects.
§ Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos
My Lords, as Pro-Chancellor of the University of Wales, perhaps I may declare an interest. As the noble Baroness is aware, the University of Wales is a federal university with six constituent colleges. Can she say whether the Welsh polytechnic is to have university status? In that case can I assume that it will become a seventh constituent college of the University of Wales? In view of the fact that a separate Welsh funding council is to be set up, with a funding council for England and Scotland, will the Welsh funding council be answerable to the Department of Education and Science or will the Welsh Office come into the procedure in some way or other? In a similar way, will that procedure apply to Scotland as well?
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, as I understand it, as in most departments, including the Welsh departments for Wales and the Scottish departments for Scotland, the departments will be responsible to their national offices. If I am wrong about that I shall notify the noble Lord and put the matter right. As regards status, it will be a matter for the particular institution to determine whether it is interested in being called a university or operating as a university. That will be acceptable depending on whether the body measures up to the criteria for the self-validation of degree courses. At the end of the day it will be a decision for the particular institution which applies to be called a university and to award its own degrees.
§ Baroness White
My Lords, I suggest that before the Minister discusses Wales she learns a little more about the peculiarities of the Welsh university system.
§ The Earl of Longford
My Lords, I shall not try to add to the searching criticism of some aspects of the proposals which have been made by my noble friend Lady Blackstone. I was the first person to introduce in this House a debate about the polytechnics. As a result, I must be allowed a certain amount of satisfaction. I opened that debate about two years ago and at that time there was no question of these wonderful reforms. It would be nice to say post hoc propter hoc. However, I am not.presumptuous enough to say that. It is a great day for the polytechnics and I leave it at that.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, the whole House knows how passionately the noble Earl has campaigned for the polytechnics. I believe that that part of my speech today was accepted in all parts of the House. I thought that the noble Earl would be pleased about that particular proposal.
§ Lord Annan
My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness could explain a little further about the control of universities, polytechnics and colleges. I understand—and it is a solution devoutly to be wished for—that the Universities Funding Council is to be wound up and put under a higher educational funding council. We hope that the personnel will be slightly different.
49 The second point I wish to make is this: what happens if a polytechnic or a college begins to go down a path which is neither academic nor vocational? It is perfectly possible that studies of this kind can emerge in autonomous institutions. How autonomous will be universities, polytechnics and colleges? Is there to be any control over their development; their academic or their vocational development? Is there to be any guidance from government as to what to do when institutions find themselves incapable, owing to their funding, of carrying on as they are now doing?
The universities, so I understand—though I have been in Germany for 10 days—have had to ask for a meeting with the Prime Minister because the Secretary of State refuses to meet them. They cannot see how they can continue to operate in their present state of funding; at any rate on the same lines. So far as concerns medical schools, for example, it has long been known and understood—though not very often stated publicly—that there are at least two too many medical schools and teaching hospitals in London. In other words, that they should be reduced by two. How is that going to be brought about? The Government take the line that it is not possible at the moment to determine the matter. I see that the Chief Whip is looking very anxious.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, it was remiss of me not to answer an earlier specific question about any change in support for students. There is no plan in this Statement to change that. We are not interfering with the present system.
In terms of quality and control the UFC will be replaced by the national funding councils: one for each of the three countries. The relationship between those funding councils and their respective institutions will be very much as it is between the UFC and the universities and the PFC and its polytechnics. Matters of funding and levels of funding split between research and other grants will be a matter for that. I see nothing to change in terms of what was two sectors being a single sector making its usual vigorous representations to government on the forthcoming PES rounds regarding the funding of higher education.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, we are getting very near to the end of the time allowed. If the noble Lord were to ask a further question my noble friend would not be able to answer because we are so near to the end of questions after the Statement, which should not last more than 20 minutes. I think it is probably time for the next Statement.