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Overseas Students

Volume 934: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what estimate has been made of the number of overseas students likely to attend British universities in the session 1978–79; and how this compares with sessions 1976–77, and 1977–78.

The provisional number in 1976– 77 is 33,000. A modest reduction in numbers is likely in 1977–78 and 1978–79.

Is the Minister aware that overseas students are currently concerned about the implications of the Suthendran judgment of July 1976 for those currently at British universities? Does he not think that any reduction whatever in the number of students from overseas countries goes very much against the whole policy of aid to developing countries, particularly against the background of the North-South dialogue?

I am aware of the concern expressed particularly on behalf of the students who are already here. A hardship fund was set up for the purpose of helping students both at universities and in the public sector who are already here. With regard to the general policy, I think the House accepts that some limitation of numbers of overseas students is essential, otherwise they would be taking up places at the expense of home students.

Will my hon. Friend relate the question of the drop in the number of overseas students to the increase in fees? Does he not think that the increase in fees militates against the poorer students coming here and ensures that the students who are fairly wealthy come here as opposed to the poorer students? Is not that something of which we ought to take great note?

I am concerned with poor students from all over the world. However, the House should realise that many overseas students are by no means poor, nor are their countries necessarily poor.

Will the Minister admit that a year ago in the public expenditure White Paper the Government said that they would raise an extra £42 million out of overseas students' fees in the finan- cial year 1977–78? On the latest figures, they seem to have raised about £28 million. Are they still committed to raising fees to get another £14 million, or are they not?

We are looking at this at the moment. I hope that further increases, apart from an increase for ordinary inflationary purposes, will not be necessary.