The independent review of higher education funding and student finance will analyse the challenges facing, and opportunities for, higher education and their implications for student financing and support. It will make recommendations to Government on the future balance of financial contributions by taxpayers, students, graduates and employers, and the Government will not pre-empt the outcome of the review.
May I direct the Minister to the issue of maintenance allowances, which is the subject of my question? Is he at all satisfied with the future direction, given that 28,000 students are not receiving their maintenance allowances, including several hundred in Stockport, who, even after Christmas, are stranded without the money they deserve?
That is why I set up the independent review led by Sir Deian Hopkin. I think that we all recognise that serious issues have arisen in relation to the Student Loans Company’s performance this year. Its chair and chief executive have apologised, and I am pleased that it has now dealt with the backlog. Many thousands of applications continue to come in, as many students have been delaying seeking their finance. What is important is for next year’s process to be far better than this year’s, and that is the undertaking that the chair and chief executive have made.
Forty-three per cent. of students in higher education are part-time students, and future growth will largely come from part-time and mature students. Is there not a powerful argument for raising the cap on full-time undergraduate fees in order to develop a unified system, giving part-time students the same access to financial support that full-time students enjoy?
My hon. Friend puts his point forcefully. I shall not be drawn on the outcome of the review, but I can say that he is right to underline the position of part-time students and to call for better equity. That is why we have asked Lord Browne to examine the position of part-time students, in particular.