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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the Government must be very relieved that they won the vote on Clause 18. But that is as nothing to the consequences of what the noble Lord is now saying. Throughout this Bill the noble Lord has been saying to the students, schools, colleges and institutions that the reason the Government are producing these proposals is so that more money will go into the university sector. There is one point that the noble Lord has made which we accept. The money will remain with the colleges. If that money is to be genuinely additional money then it must be disregarded for the purposes of funding higher education. If the noble Lord cannot give that guarantee then his proposals and the rationale for them fall on deaf ears.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I do not believe that I can say much more than I have already. This is the mechanism for getting new money into the higher education system. If the noble Baroness is pressing me to say what the expenditure on higher education in total will be, that is not possible and I do not believe that noble Lords would expect me to do so.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before withdrawing the amendment, I advise the noble Lord that we wanted an assurance in principle that this was meant to be new, additional money which was not to be displaced by the normal funding of higher education. If that assurance cannot be given, we shall return to the matter on Third Reading. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 66 not moved.]

2 Mar 1998 : Column 1074

Clause 20 [Interpretation of Chapter I]:

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 67:


Page 15, leave out lines 9 to 12 and insert--
(" "fees", in relation to attendance on a course, means fees in respect of, or otherwise in connection with, attendance on the course, including admission, registration, tuition and graduation fees but excluding--
(a) fees payable otherwise than to the institution providing the course in respect of the awarding or accreditation of any qualification,
(b) fees payable for board or lodging,
(c) fees payable for attending any graduation or other ceremony; and
(d) such other fees as may be prescribed;").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I promised in Committee that we would look again with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals at the definition of fees in Clause 20. That is the definition that makes clear what costs are expected to be covered by the fees that are charged by universities and colleges and for which means-tested financial support will be made available to students under regulations to be made under Clause 16 (2)(b). It is also the definition that makes clear what additional fees universities and colleges might charge without risking a condition on their grant under Clause 18.

This amendment makes it clear that we expect the essentials of any course of higher education to be covered by the basic fee for which means-tested support will be available up to a maximum of £1,000 next academic year. That sum is intended to cover all tuition costs and any administrative costs associated with the processes of admission (or matriculation), registration (or enrolment) and graduation. We would thus not expect students to pay any extra for admission to an institution, for annual registration with that institution, for tuition during their course or for graduation. We accept that a university may charge for the costs of providing a social occasion to celebrate the awarding of a degree, but there should be no question of a university charging a fee to a student for the actual award of a degree.

If universities or colleges charged extra for any of those essential items--admission, registration, tuition or graduation--the Secretary of State would have to consider whether or not to seek to control such fees by exercising his reserve power to place conditions on grant under Clause 18.

The amendment also makes it clear that, on the other hand, there are certain costs that the Government do not consider to be covered by the basic fee, and so universities may charge separately for these. They include fees charged by external awarding or accrediting bodies; board and lodging; and the cost of special ceremonies. So any university which charged extra for a graduation ceremony or any college which levied charges for board and lodging would not run the risk of having a condition placed on its grant under Clause 18.

Let me make it clear that this amendment has no implications for college fees and that the outcome of our review of Oxbridge fees is an entirely separate matter. That review follows the Dearing Report which pointed

2 Mar 1998 : Column 1075

out that college fees represented a substantial addition to the standard funding for higher education institutions and proposed that the Government should review them. It also recommended separately that there should be no variations in the level of public funding for teaching, outside modest margins, without very good reasons. We therefore asked the HEFCE to conduct a review of college fees, taking into account its proposed new teaching funding method and the relevant points in the Dearing Report. We are still considering that advice and hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.

As the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said--I am sorry that he is not in his place--it is true that an early draft of the government amendment, which we showed to the CVCP, contained a reference to college fees. But we concluded that it was technically defective because either college fees fall into the first category of fees in this government amendment, where we do not wish to see top-up fees charged--that is, tuition fees and the like--or, in the case of board and lodging, they fall into the other category of fees where we believe that institutions should be able to decide on an appropriate level of charges. So we concluded that it would be tautologous to mention college fees separately. That early draft has now been revised; and noble Lords will see that the government amendment on the Marshalled List has no reference to college fees in order to avoid technical defects. But let me stress again that the amendment does not in any way pre-empt the outcome of the review of college fees.

Finally, the definition allows the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations other fees that universities and colleges would be able to charge without being liable to a condition on their grant controlling such fees. Those fees could include fees for field trips and possibly fees for materials, which the noble Earl, Lord Limerick, raised in Committee. This provision for regulations will allow us to consult widely with appropriate representative bodies such as the CVCP and the Committee of University Chairmen before drawing up a detailed list. It would also allow for amendment of that list in due course if it appeared that we had omitted some important fee.

This amendment clarifies which fees universities may or may not charge in addition to the basic fee, for which financial support will be available to students. It also allows for further elucidation through regulations. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 21 [Grants and loans: Scotland]:

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 68:


Page 17, line 20, at end insert--
("( ) Regulations to which this section applies shall not prescribe a rate of interest to be borne by loans higher than that which the Secretary of State, having regard to such retail price index as appears to him to be appropriate, is satisfied is required to maintain the value in real terms of the outstanding amounts of such loans.
( ) Regulations to which this section applies may make provision, for the purpose of calculating the interest to be borne by loans, for repayment by borrowers to be treated as having been made or received on such date or dates as may be prescribed.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 69 not moved.]

2 Mar 1998 : Column 1076

Baroness Carnegy of Lour moved Amendment No. 70:


Page 17, line 34, at end insert--
("(2A) Where the Secretary of State has determined a maximum amount under subsection (2) above, he shall not include in the maximum amount of allowances payable those bench- and field-trip fees, or increases thereto, operated by institutions prior to 26 November 1997.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in speaking in Committee to amendments to Clauses 18 to 22 the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that after further consultation with the CVCP the Government were willing to consider amending the definition of "fees" in the English and Scots clauses. We have just debated the Government amendment to the English clauses in response to that assurance. Not knowing whether an amendment would be forthcoming from the Government, and after further consultation with the Association of University Teachers (Scotland), I tabled Amendments Nos. 70 and 73 to elicit further information on the Government's intentions for Scotland and also for England and Wales.

The amendments use the examples of bench fees for the use of, say, equipment and materials by chemistry students and extra fees for field trips, perhaps for geography students. Amendment No. 70 seeks an assurance that such fees charged before publication of the Bill will not in retrospect be considered to have been part of the course and so carried forward into the future. Amendment No. 73 seeks confirmation that should a financial penalty be imposed on top-up fees then fees such as bench- and field-trip fees would be excluded from the calculation.

These are details. However, can the Scottish Office Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, say whether it is the intention of the Government to amend the Bill to match the amendments which his noble friend Lady Blackstone has just achieved in relation to the English clauses? If that is the intention, can the Minister give an assurance that the specific items on the face of the Bill will also be on the face of the Scottish clauses and that the regulations will be properly discussed with Scottish institutions and will cover the same areas as in England, because that is the Scottish institutions' desire? I believe that that assurance is very important, and I look forward to the reply of the Minister. I beg to move.


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