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Overseas Students

Volume 21: debated on Monday 29 March 1982

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asked the Lord Privy Seal how many overseas students are currently being assisted by funds from his Department.

We have trained over 13, 000 people in the past 12 months on courses of varying length. I hope to sustain a similar programme in 1982, but I cannot at this stage give a total for the whole year. At the moment there are 6, 200 people under training in this country.

Is the Minister aware that since the Tories came to power there has been a decrease of 25 per cent. in the number of new overseas students coming to Britain, and that the most significant decreases have been found in the number of students coming from developing Commonwealth countries, such as India, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe? Is he further aware that there has been an increase in the number of Common Market students coming to Britain, who are exempt from paying full-cost fees? If the Department of Education and Science is too blind to see the injustice of all that, will the Minister ensure that his Department helps more students to come from poorer countries, especially Commonwealth countries?

I should very much like to do that. As the hon. Gentleman may know, the Overseas Students Trust has been looking at the problem and hopes to publish its report within a matter of months. It will consider the whole question of students from the Commonwealth and elsewhere and the report will be made available after publication.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that many of the students who attend courses in Britain do not attend universities? Some of them attend private enterprise organisations such as the Air Service Training at Scone, where they learn to be technicians and pilots?

Not all students are at universities. Students also attend technical colleges and a wide spread of educational establishments, which, we hope, will be of help to the developing countries.

Does the Minister agree that the training of students in Britain is of substantial commercial benefit to Britain in the long term? When those who have been trained here return to their countries and attain influential positions, they are likely to purchase our manufactured and scientific goods and our publications. That reflects substantially on our long-term earnings capacity.

Prima facie, that is one of the views taken, and it is probably a good view. That is precisely the type of point that the Overseas Students Trust has been considering, to see how relevant such arguments are.