Surely the Secretary of State is being both complacent and obstinate in the face of an unprecedented Crisis in the Universities.
Friday the 13th may not be considered the most auspicious date on which to raise the subject of the Crisis in the Universities, because it is undoubtedly the case that the universities need all the luck they can get.
Today we have had the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind) talking of a Crisis in the Universities, yet on Monday we were debating, among other reports of the Public Accounts Committee, the Ninth Report of the last Session, in which the Committee - chaired by a gentleman of some eminence in Conservative circles, the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) - said:The UGC told us that, compared with 1971–72, the universities' average expenditure per student in constant terms had risen during the first two years of the 1972–77 quinquennium and had then steadily declined until it was now at or a little below the 1971–72 level.
The right hon. Member for Taunton does not agree with the hon. Member for Pentlands that there is a Crisis in the Universities.
However, even if we restrict ourselves to higher education, we have to ask whether the financial Crisis in the Universities is more severe than it is in other higher education institutions.
I do not think that it is true to say that there is a Crisis in Our Universities at present.
The motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker, refers to the grave Crisis in Universities and seeks that the Government should make available more resources for universities.
We have not had this sort of Crisis in Our Universities before.
Until that is done, it is worse than useless to increase student numbers, as that can only reduce the quality of education received and increase the Crisis in the Universities.
But on 12 June they came marching down to this place from all over the United Kingdom to protest about the Crisis in Our Universities.
It is especially sad that the Government have not responded more adequately to the Crisis in the Universities.
The Bill is a short-term expedient which does nothing to resolve the long-term funding Crisis in Our Universities.
The hon. Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) graphically described the funding Crisis in Our Universities, and it is clear that there is a need to get more money into the universities, to re-establish the quality of higher education provision.
I hope the Government realise that there is a Crisis in Our Universities and that it has to be addressed.
I should remind him that in 1996 the Dearing Committee was set up for exactly the purpose of looking at the financial Crisis in Our Universities, trying to find away to steer us through it and picking up that very hot potato of student fees with which the noble Lord said he declined to deal.
The Crisis in Universities will continue if those issues are not addressed.
In view of the mounting financial Crisis in Universities, does the Minister agree that if our universities are to maintain the standards of excellence necessary to attract the outstanding students for whom this ORs scheme is designed, the Government clearly have to set free the universities not only to increase their fees significantly, but of course to retain the proceeds?
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, on introducing the debate and thanking him for allowing us the chance to discuss what is now agreed to be a Crisis in the Universities.