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Further And Higher Education

Volume 20: debated on Tuesday 16 March 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will take steps to ensure the continuation of part-time courses in further and higher education.

The Government recognise the importance of part-time provision in further and higher education in meeting the needs of individuals and of industry and commerce; and we would encourage the local education authorities and their institutions, whose responsibility this is, to continue to give prominence to such provision.

Does the Minister agree that part-time courses for mature students in further and higher education are among the most cost-effective of education services, particularly when students, such as those at Birkbeck college, are paying the fees themselves? As such courses provide an efficient form of education and self-help, do not they go along with Government philosophy in both these respects? Therefore, why are those courses having to be cut?

As I have already told the House, the provision for further education has been substantially increased. It is true that the number of part-time courses in non-advanced further education has reduced in contrast to full-time and sandwich courses. This is partly due to unemployment. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that by 1984–85 there will be about 50, 000 places in UVP.

I think that we shall need a translation of those last remarks in the Official Report. Will the Minister undertake an inquiry into the full-time equivalent conversion factors involved in both sides of higher education, because there is a great deal of evidence that they militate against the way in which part-time and mature student courses are carried on in those institutions?

I understand the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. As he knows, the conversion factor is based on an annual survey carried out by the Department. However, perhaps I can reassure the hon. Gentleman by saying that the newly established National Advisory Body for Local Authority Higher Education is setting up a working group to examine the data base for its work. The issue that the hon. Gentleman mentioned will be one of those studied.