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Further Education

Volume 980: debated on Tuesday 4 March 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will bring forward proposals to help those students who, for various reasons, discontinued full-time education before gaining academic qualifications.

A range of opportunities already exist to help such students obtain academic qualifications. My right hon. and learned Friend has no new, additional proposals in mind.

Is the Minister aware that the planned savage reductions in university intake next year will hit particularly hard those who, because they are talented, deserve a second chance at higher education? Does he share the enthusiasm of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment for expanding the Open University to give such people second chances at degree level courses and below?

I always share the enthusiasm of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. The Government appreciate the need for people to be able to return to education when their circumstances and needs make that appropriate. The Government are staunch supporters of the Open University principle. The Government acknowledge the importance of the Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education. The House will be aware of a number of other initiatives which the Government have taken with such people in mind. However, there are no firm proposals at present.

Will my hon. Friend comment on the disgraceful treatment that his colleague the Under-Secretary of State received at the hands of London School of Economics students last week? Would he care to recommend that the grants of the offending students be withdrawn?

I certainly do not consider it my duty to tell my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Dr. Boyson) how he should handle insults at meetings. We can perhaps learn from him. I acknowledge the important point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton, West (Mr. Carlisle) but I do not believe that it is up to us to interfere with the grants of those particular students.