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Tuition Fees

Volume 522: debated on Wednesday 26 January 2011

5. What assessment he has made of the likely effect on universities in Scotland of the increase in the maximum fees chargeable by universities in England. (35128)

Education is devolved, and the hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Scottish Government are currently consulting on the future of higher education in Scotland. The UK Government are developing a White Paper on higher education in England that will fully consider the effect of their proposals on higher education in the devolved Administrations.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer, although it was not quite an answer to my question. He will know, as I do, that the tripling of university fees in England will bring nothing but pain and misery to Scottish universities and Scottish students, whether in funding or support for students, or through the intolerable pressure on the Scottish Government to respond. What does he have to say to the university students who will suffer so much because of the appalling decision made by his party and the Scottish Liberals?

Higher education in Scotland is devolved. The UK Government are taking account of the impact of their policies in Scotland, but I tend to agree with Sir Andrew Cubie when he said that the Scottish Government were behind the curve in responding to the Browne report and bringing forward their own proposals. They are followers, not leaders. [Interruption.]

Order. There is a constant hubbub in the Chamber. People outside must think that it is extremely discourteous.

The Minister should be aware that what is not devolved are decisions on research funding—decisions that are arrived at here in Westminster and which will have an impact, not least for those Russell group universities in Scotland. Will he give us an undertaking that he will ensure that the Secretary of State for Scotland stays closely in touch with Mike Russell’s all-party working group at Holyrood, so that whatever the political composition after May, we get an outcome for Scottish universities that does not replicate the errors of policy judgment that have sadly been arrived at here?

I am happy to give my right hon. Friend an undertaking about the Scotland Office liaising with the relevant Scottish Parliament committee, and also to assure him that the Scotland Office works closely with Universities Scotland on all issues affecting universities in Scotland.