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Volume 22: debated on Tuesday 20 April 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what representations he has received about the reductions envisaged in university places in future years.

My right hon. Friend has received representations from Members of both Houses and a wide range of other bodies and individuals.

I thank the Minister for that reply, because there must have been much correspondence on the subject. Is the Minister aware that he will be reducing the number of university entrants in 1982–83 to 72,000? In 1980–81 the figure was 76,900, which means that there has been a large reduction in one year. Is he aware that the 18-yearold population will be at a peak of 924,000? Is what the Minister is doing good or bad for Britain?

I am well aware of the figures that the hon. Gentleman gives. The overriding needs of the national economy impose them on us.

How many representations has the Under-Secretary of State received from universities where redundancy proposals have been rejected by the university senates or councils? What will the Government's action be in those circumstances?

There is no role for direct Government intervention in those circumstances or in any circumstances of management problems in universities.

Is the Minister aware that when the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts visited Stirling and Aston universities it appeared that circumstances could arise early in 1984 in which those universities, and no doubt others, might have to declare themselves bankrupt and go into liquidation? If that eventuality arose, is the Minister really saying that the Government would have no view about it?

If the UGC took the view that the university could do nothing to avoid bankruptcy, it would wish to take action. However, if the UGC's view was that the university could have taken practical action but did not, the problem would be more difficult.