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Higher Education: EUC Report

Volume 739: debated on Thursday 11 October 2012

Motion to Take Note

Moved By

To move that this House takes note of the Report of the European Union Committee on The Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe (27th Report, Session 2010-12, HL Paper 275).

My Lords, Sub-Committee G on Social Policies and Consumer Protection produced this report just before it was wound up, following a reorganisation of the House’s committee functions that took effect at the beginning of this Session. While the responsibility for European education policy has now passed into the capable hands of Sub-Committee F, its Chairman, my noble friend Lord Hannay, has kindly agreed that I, as the Chairman of Sub-Committee G when the inquiry was conducted, should move this Motion.

The sub-committee turned its attention to higher education last October, shortly after the Commission published a communication on the subject. We aimed to complete the inquiry and publish our report ahead of the Bologna ministerial conference in Bucharest on 26 and 27 April. David Willetts, the Higher Education Minister who provided us with the Government’s perspective during our inquiry, attended that conference and took note of the report’s recommendations. The report also considered student mobility, which was examined by a joint steering group that reported to the Government around the same time that our report was published. I will reflect upon these developments and our position on them in due course.

The debate continues about whether international student numbers should continue to be included in the Government’s net migration targets. Universities UK and other stakeholders have called for their removal in order to create a clear differentiation between temporary and permanent migration, to help universities whose international character is essential to their future success and to contribute to economic growth. While David Willetts has recently responded to these calls by making a commitment that overseas student numbers would be disaggregated from net migration figures, it is not yet clear whether this means that international student figures will be completely removed from the reduction targets. I know that many of your Lordships have strong views on these matters, which I look forward to hearing during the course of this debate.

On the Bologna process, from the very beginning of our inquiry we were conscious that the EU, with its treaties, legislation and enforcement mechanisms, and the more informal Bologna process—of which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was the UK signatory as Higher Education Minister in 1999, and which relies upon voluntary engagement between Governments and stakeholders and adopts decisions by unanimity—were two very different European organisations. Despite its voluntary nature, we were genuinely impressed by how much has been achieved through the Bologna process without structures equivalent to the EU being in place. However, we also took note of the overlaps between the two entities. Alongside the 47 European Bologna countries, the European Commission is a member in its own right and has aided its development through sponsoring mobility schemes such as Erasmus and other instruments, such as the European credit transfer scheme and diploma supplement.

While concerns have been raised in the past about the effectiveness of the Bologna process as a purely intergovernmental system, we received no evidence from any of our witnesses to suggest there was any desire to reconstitute the Bologna process on a more formal, bureaucratic or legalistic footing. We also received no evidence to suggest that the Commission would like a stronger role in European higher education or in the Bologna process itself. Instead, many of our witnesses raised concerns about the boundaries becoming blurred between the EU and the European higher education area, which was the outcome of the Bologna process. As a result, we emphasised the importance of retaining a clear demarcation between the two entities in our report.

While the UK already complies with much of the Bologna process, and many of our witnesses were positive about its role in principle, we developed the impression that the Government and many universities were yet to realise and fully embrace its potential benefits. We also considered that policy-makers in Whitehall should take more account of the European dimension when framing their approach to higher education reform. However, in other respects we acknowledged that the European frameworks sometimes struggled to accommodate the particularities of the UK system, namely the one-year masters degree, which more commonly takes two years to complete in the rest of Europe and therefore does not always fit neatly into the credit accumulation system. The Government assured us that they were working with their European partners to iron out such conflicts.

An obvious manifestation of the EU’s role in higher education in Europe, particularly in the UK, is the provision of research funding through the seventh framework programme, known as FP7. With this in mind, and conscious of the role of research and development funding in achieving economic growth, our report supports the allocation of a bigger proportion of funds to research, innovation and education—including the successor programme to FP7, Horizon 2020—under the next long-term EU budget for the period 2014-20. This support is subject to reductions being made in other areas of the EU budget and overall restraint being achieved. While we considered that the Commission’s preferred allocation of €80 billion during this seven-year period may be unrealistic, we were concerned that the Government’s drive for overall budgetary restraint may prove to be counterproductive by diluting the disproportionately large allocation of funding that UK universities currently receive from this part of the EU budget. While we appreciate that the MFF negotiations are still ongoing, I would welcome the Minister’s response to this particular point.

As part of our inquiry, we visited the University of East London’s Docklands campus, developed in part due to EU funds and where the development of entrepreneurs from the student body and local communities was being supported. We considered that the EU could make a valuable contribution to fostering greater collaboration between universities and businesses, resulting in increased economic growth, and we urged the Government to take more account of various EU initiatives in this area, including knowledge and innovation communities and European innovation partnerships. We also called upon the Government to play a full role in the further development of the European research area, allowing for the greater mobility of researchers, better cross-border co-operation and competition and harmonised career structures. The European University Association, whose secretary-general provided evidence for our inquiry, is one of the main driving organisations behind this initiative.

As noble Lords will already be aware, there are presently a substantial number of first-class universities in the UK, which are second only to US institutions in global rankings. However, this should not make the UK higher education sector complacent, particularly in the light of recent global ranking figures that showed some UK universities slipping down the top 100. On the subject of ranking, the Commission’s proposal for a new European university ranking, U-Multirank, elicited strong reactions from most of our witnesses. While we considered that the proposal had some positive characteristics, including its intention to rely upon a greater number of indicators than simply research output, we came to the view that it should not be considered a priority at this stage. We noted, however, that existing rankings, which depend on multiple indicators such as the Times Higher Education world university rankings, can make a valuable contribution to assessing the relative merits of universities around the world.

The higher education sector is becoming increasingly global in character. In this vein, the Commission intends to produce an internationalisation strategy. While we can see potential value in this move, we believe that care should be taken to avoid duplicating work already being carried out by individual universities and member states and concentrate on areas where it can truly add value, such as fostering greater collaboration between universities across continents.

Lastly, we considered mobility. While we considered that placements abroad produced a range of benefits for individuals, such as increased confidence, improved social skills and employability, we were presented with evidence that indicated there were a number of barriers that prevented UK students participating in Erasmus and other mobility schemes to the same extent as those of other member states.

Our report urges the Government to address the UK’s prevailing monoglot culture by making language learning compulsory in primary and secondary schools, thereby aiding the development of a UK student mobility culture; ensuring the continuation of the Erasmus fee waiver scheme; and supporting the development of the proposed masters-level student loan guarantee facility—all of which we believe could aid the ability of more students to take advantage of the opportunity to study in Europe. We also considered that universities and the Commission could do more to increase participation by promoting mobility opportunities far more widely and by making the length of Erasmus placements more flexible. We welcomed the Commission’s Erasmus for All proposal and considered that, as with Horizon 2020, funding to this area should be prioritised under the next multiannual financial framework.

Apart from financial and linguistic barriers to student mobility, the report also recommended that the Government could do more to overcome other socioeconomic and cultural barriers to participation in mobility programmes. Despite the rapid expansion of participation in higher education over the past half- century, the proportion of students from disadvantaged social backgrounds participating in study in Europe has remained frustratingly static. While some aspects of the new tuition fee regime could alleviate the financial burden on prospective students from less privileged backgrounds, debt aversion and low expectations are more difficult to overcome. HESA data also demonstrate that these students, as well as those from ethnic minorities and those with disabilities, are less likely to participate in Erasmus and other mobility schemes. I trust that the Minister will outline what the Government are doing to widen participation in this respect.

We also noted the recent growth of courses taught in the English language by universities in mainland Europe, particularly at the postgraduate level, which is a feature of the increasingly competitive global market for international students. To reference one example, Maastricht University has recently stepped up its efforts to recruit students from the UK and toured some English schools last Easter in order to recruit new students. While their significantly lower tuition fees will no doubt appeal to cash-strapped parents up and down the country, it would lessen students’ chances of improving their language skills. It also means that the UK can no longer guarantee that it will retain its competitive edge in attracting foreign students. While greater competition is not necessarily a bad thing, our report urges the Government and UK universities to be vigilant and actively to promote the benefits of the UK higher education sector within Europe and internationally.

The Government’s response to our report was published in May 2012, and there is clearly much common ground between our respective views on the report’s themes that I have already mentioned. In particular, we welcome the commitment that David Willetts has already made to increasing outward student mobility. A joint steering group, chaired by Professor Colin Riordan, who gave evidence to our inquiry, produced a series of recommendations last March to increase outward mobility. The Minister confirmed that from the beginning of the academic year 2014-15, students studying overseas on Erasmus or other international mobility schemes will be required to pay a student contribution for the first time, which is not as generous as the existing scheme.

I am conscious of time, so I shall move to a conclusion, leaving out a few points that may be raised by noble Lords during the debate.

In conclusion, we reached the view that while the EU can continue to make a positive contribution to the modernisation of European higher education, it must nevertheless be pragmatic and concentrate only on the areas where it can truly add value. For their part, the Government should also place higher education at the centre of their growth agenda, domestically and across Europe, by maximising the potential opportunities presented through engagement with both the EU and the Bologna process. We welcome the progress that the Government have already made in this area. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, for securing this debate and take this opportunity of thanking her for her leadership of the now sadly defunct sub-committee G. I also pay tribute to Michael Torrance and Alastair Dillon for all the support they gave to us on the committee and, in particular, for the drafting of the report we are now debating. It is a particular pleasure that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, the chairman of sub-committee F, is providing continuity by speaking in this debate; I have the privilege of serving on that committee.

I suggest to your Lordships that the overarching background statistics for this debate are that investment in higher education in the United States is 2.7% of GDP, in Japan it is 1.5% and in the EU it is 1.3%. That is the backdrop. But it is, of course, the EU which we are considering and I want to focus on mobility within the EEA as it affects higher education, the point made so well by the noble Baroness, Lady Young.

Globally, the UK is the largest destination for students studying abroad, second only to the United States. We are told by the Government that in 2009-10 there were approximately 406,000 foreign students studying at universities in the United Kingdom compared with only 33,000 UK students studying abroad. A study of British secondary school pupils showed that the majority preference was for North American universities at 56%, rather than European ones at only 21%.

The committee was told by the British Council that during 2011 there were 12,873 UK Erasmus participants, the highest number since the programme started in 1987. That is good news. Nevertheless, the fact remains that outward mobility from comparator countries such as France, Germany and Spain is approximately three times that of the United Kingdom, which means that the UK is a substantial net receiver of Erasmus students from elsewhere in the EU. The National Union of Students told the committee that 28% of students decided not to study abroad because of language problems—a problem I referred to—11% were unaware that the opportunities were there and 37% cited financial implications.

In the United Kingdom there is the added dimension that higher education within the UK is devolved. However, in the case of England, the Government responded constructively to the concerns raised by the committee with the appointment of Professor Colin Riordan’s joint steering committee, to which the noble Baroness has referred. Among the important recommendations by this steering group was the need for flexibility in the curriculum to make it easier for students to spend time abroad, and for their experience abroad to be more widely accredited and recognised, for instance through the Higher Education Achievement Record and the diploma supplement. But a possibly even more fundamental suggestion from Professor Riordan’s group is that there should be a stronger promotion of international awareness prior to university, at school level, in order to inspire and encourage interest before students enter higher education. The group makes a specific recommendation to include foreign HE providers on UCAS applications. I would welcome the Minister's assurance that both of these recommendations are being addressed

However, in all our discussions about the relationship of British students to higher education within the EU, we are back to the language problem. The old cliché that Britain and the United States were separated by a common language can be imitated to say that, when it comes to language capability, Britons are isolated—or dare I say even complacent?—by English being now effectively the lingua franca.

In this context, I make what I regard as two telling points. A 2010 education and skills survey by the CBI found that over two-thirds of UK employers were not satisfied with the foreign language skills of the young, and more than half perceived shortfalls in their international cultural awareness. Secondly, but I hope more positively, students who have had an Erasmus mobility period are more likely to be either in employment or in further study six months after qualifying, and their average salaries are higher. Both of these opinions come from the Higher Education Funding Council for England and are but two of the salient points in the Riordan report. Again, I shall be interested to hear from the Minister what plans the Government have for taking those points forward.

In conclusion, perhaps I may refer briefly to the visit made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, our chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and myself to the University of East London last January. This university is located in the centre of one of the great shifts in commercial activity in the past 100 years, from the closing of the London docks to the huge docklands office complex centred around Canary Wharf. But in this metamorphosis the UEL has retained much of its resourcefulness of the old East End. This spirit of entrepreneurialism has helped to give it the pre-eminent position it now holds among the younger universities.

In past years, the university has benefited from the European regional development fund and from the European Social Fund. The incubation of activities, together with SMEs, has enabled the university to establish entrepreneurship and enterprise as a key part in the development of its work with students, which was a point again made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in addressing the co-operation between businesses and universities. Certainly, at the time of our visit it was the only business innovation centre as recognised by the EU in London. I think that we were all impressed by the spirit of can-do and the outreach to students from the rest of the EU which was so apparent during our visit. With its emphasis on student mobility the university is a fine example of the way in which higher education institutions in this country are addressing in particular the mobility of students within the EU.

My Lords, I very much welcome the report by the EU Committee on The Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe. In particular, I should like to draw the House’s attention to the last paragraph in the summary of the report, which sums up what this debate should be about. It states:

“The EU can continue to make a positive contribution to the modernisation of European higher education but it must be pragmatic and concentrate on areas where it can truly add value”,

a point which I underline. It continues:

“For its part, the Government should place higher education at the centre of its growth agenda, domestically and across Europe, by drawing on the potential of both the EU and the Bologna Process”.

Again, I very much agree with that point.

It is important to acknowledge that although education, including higher education, is primarily a member state responsibility, under the treaty the EU and, in particular, the Commission can encourage the,

“development of quality education by encouraging cooperation between Member States”.

That is set out in paragraph 1 of the committee’s report. It lists a variety of ways, which I will not go through, in which this can happen, and all of them seem pertinent to this debate. Other Members of your Lordships’ House may want to take them up. In my view it would not be acceptable for Commission directives on all or any of these matters to be issued. In this area, its role should be as a facilitator and not as a purveyor of pan-European higher education policies. It needs to interact with the Bologna process, neither determining it nor duplicating it.

In 1999, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, has just mentioned, I signed the Bologna declaration on behalf of the UK, following the Sorbonne declaration the year before. At that time I strongly argued that the EU should not do a takeover job in relation to what was being proposed for Bologna and I was not terribly popular with some of my ministerial colleagues, some of whom, although not all, saw this as a matter for the Commission. I am glad to say that in the end my intransigence won the argument. I felt very strongly that the Bologna process should be much wider than the EU countries—which now number 27. I cannot remember the precise number at that time except that it was quite a few less. I wanted to see the whole of Europe brought into the Bologna process, from Iceland in the west to Turkey in the east. I thought that it was really important that we should reach out to this wider range of countries, particularly some of those countries in central and eastern Europe and the Balkans which were not yet part of the EU.

I felt very strongly that the whole Bologna process should not be a top-down one from Brussels but very much a bottom-up one, with the kind of voluntary and consensual approach that the committee identifies and which has indeed been adopted. At the time I was not quite sure whether this would lead anywhere after all the work that had been done, and whether it would work. I think that I should have been a bit more confident. Some of the things that I did as a Minister have been wiped off the sheet altogether, but they are mainly domestic decisions that have been overturned by this Government, such as EMAs—to my great regret. But at least this international one is rather more difficult for the coalition Government to overturn, and it is to the credit of all those people who have been involved in the Bologna process since then that there are now 47 countries that participate in it and it is a vibrant process where genuine debate is taking place.

It was difficult for some of the countries that signed up for this to engage in the common framework proposed, with the three-stage structure—higher education, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees and PhDs—whereas it was very easy for us. It was described by my French colleague, Claude Allègre, as the Anglo-Saxon approach to higher education. That is one way of putting it. But we did not have to make the enormous changes that some of the other participants did. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, has questioned whether the UK Government or universities have really embraced it. I do not know what the current Government’s position is, but certainly I believed that the then Labour Government did engage with it and did encourage the higher education sector to do so. I cannot really speak for universities, either, but my recent experience tells me that most universities entirely accept the value of Bologna, although they may sometimes be a little bit passive about it when perhaps they should be a bit more active.

The other concern that I had at the time was that the UK would be pushed into longer master’s degrees. After all, the other bit of the Anglo-Saxon approach in the United States involves two-year master’s degrees, and many European Union countries thought that that was probably right. However, I was absolutely determined that the integrity of our intensive one-year master’s degrees should be maintained, and I thought that that had been accepted. But clearly from reading the committee’s report, some universities are still finding that in practice there are issues about this in some of the countries that are signed up to Bologna, so that when graduates from the UK go back to their own countries they are questioned about the validity of their one-year master’s degree qualification. That is wholly unacceptable, and I ask the UK Government to take this up at the meeting in Bucharest, if they are able to do so.

There are some other more detailed areas where the recognition of our qualifications has to be fought for. I give you one example, which I feel quite strongly about. Those who decide to enter the medical profession, after graduating in another subject, particularly if they have graduated in science degrees, should not be forced to start all over again with a five-year medical programme. There is a four-year scheme, but I gather that there have been some issues about that in the EU. I believe that there should be a three and a half year scheme for people with a master’s degree and an undergraduate degree in biological sciences, for example. It is an absurd waste of British taxpayers’ money to make these young people who enter medicine a little later go right back to the very beginning. I hope that the Minister will look into this with her colleagues at the Department of Health to see whether we can get rid of these absurdities and have larger numbers coming into shortened courses. This is also a matter for the professional qualifications directorate in Brussels, which is supposed to be engaged in a pragmatic modernisation of some of these issues. Again, the committee refers to them.

I wish to say something about student mobility in general and Erasmus in particular. I think it is common sense that geographical mobility among able young people has a positive effect. I very much agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, has just said about the widening of understanding of other cultures being important, as is the challenge of living abroad and the greater independence and maturity which can derive from that. However, if I read the committee’s remarks correctly, it was right to be a little sceptical about whether student mobility in Europe conveyed direct benefits with regard to employment. I do not know that employers take an awful lot of notice of such mobility although perhaps they should. We should also remember that most mobility arises through students taking individual decisions to study elsewhere than in their home country and not through Erasmus programmes. Far more students come to the UK on this basis than UK students go to Europe although this could change if English becomes the main language for the delivery of teaching in many more European universities.

I draw the Minister’s attention to a related matter although it is not something on which the committee commented. We are sitting on a time bomb in relation to the repayment of fees by European Union students. The Government have simply no idea how they will recover the fees that are given to European Union students as a loan. Graduates in the UK have to pay back fees through the Inland Revenue but that is not the case for European Union students. I would like the Minister to say how this will be done and what the Government will do if there is a huge default given that they have no mechanism with which to tackle this issue.

The take-up of Erasmus schemes by UK students is relatively low, as has been reported, which is regrettable. The committee offers as an explanation the monolingual nature of our society. I am sure that that has something to do with it, along with perhaps a rather regrettable lack of interest in European Union countries on the part of many of our young people. Some of the low take-up may be due to a justified scepticism about the quality of what some European universities are able to offer, and that is not as good as it should be. However, some speakers in the debate will not be surprised to hear me say that I believe that the solution the committee offers is much too simplistic. I do not believe that compelling the teaching of foreign languages in primary and secondary schools will make a great difference. It simply will not work. It is not realistic. We do not have enough foreign language teachers to teach foreign languages in secondary schools, let alone to introduce it in primary schools. I believe that foreign language learning will again be compulsory at stage 4, as it has been in the past. However, when it was compulsory, how many young people with a GCSE in French, Spanish or any other modern language could actually speak the language afterwards? Very few could do so and they soon forgot what they had learnt. Therefore, we need to think rather more laterally about how to deal with this issue. I would like to see some pilots undertaken of gap-year programmes, particularly where the students undertaking them are going to study the social sciences at university and have an interest in economic, political or social issues in Europe. Such programmes should comprise a really intensive three or four months of learning a foreign language in Europe. They will be much more proficient than they would be if they had been made to do it at GCSE and then no more after that. We have seen the decline in the numbers taking a foreign language at A-level—a process that I fear is irreversible, given that English is now our global language. I was pleased when I discovered that my four year-old grandson was learning Spanish in his nursery class. However, I am afraid to say that he has now moved to another primary school’s reception class where Spanish is not taught. His one word in Spanish, “hola”, is likely to vanish fairly soon. I am a bit sceptical about this issue. People have been saying for years that we need more foreign language study but it does not happen, and it will not. We have to think a bit harder about it.

I also thought that there was a slight contradiction in what the committee wanted to do in this area. It admitted that there is a huge growth in the teaching of English in many European universities. I believe that that will continue. It makes it less necessary for our students to learn a foreign language, even if it may be desirable for more of them to be multilingual. I am a little sceptical about the claims made in paragraph 84 of the report, but endorse the committee’s recommendation on looking at shorter and more flexible ways of delivering Erasmus.

I want to say a couple more things, although I am running out of time. First, I hope that the Government will look seriously at the master’s-level student loan guarantee. The soaring costs of undergraduate education to our graduates is bound to lead to a dampening of demand for postgraduate higher education. We will have to provide more incentives. Therefore, the proposal from the Commission deserves to be taken seriously. I ask the Minister whether or not the UK Government support it. I have heard on the grapevine that their response so far has been indifferent.

I want to end by briefly referring to a project, Empower European Universities, led by Jo Ritzen, the ex-Education Minister of the Netherlands, with two other former Education Ministers. I am also involved. The project is not referred to in the committee report, but it is an important study. Its starting point is that university autonomy leads to greater flexibility, innovation, creative uses of scarce resources and better outcomes in the long term. The study focuses on HE systems, not individual universities, and looks at the extent to which university systems allow a degree of autonomy without intrusive and undesirable interference to make those outcomes happen. The UK scores well in this respect but the study points to the fact that it could be in the “on the way down” category. I hope the Minister will look at the report.

To conclude, the role of HE in economic growth is paramount. I hope that the Government will give the reassurance we all want—that this will be an area where public expenditure priority is attached. We cannot just rely on the European Union to make up for any failings on the part of nation states.

My Lords, I join others in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and her committee on producing a useful and timely report.

It takes its rather grandiose title from the Commission paper issued a year ago, which refers in its title to, An Agenda for the Modernisation of Europe’s Higher Education Systems. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, pointed out, this modernisation process has been going on for some time and was initiated by the moves towards creating the Bologna process in 1998, when she was the UK Minister responsible for participating in it. She also stressed that this is an intergovernmental, not an EU, initiative, and what has preceded it is a matter for agreement between Governments, rather than something that has been imposed by the European Union. Nevertheless, the Bologna process itself built upon the Erasmus exchange programme, which had existed since the 1980s and had gradually been built upon.

Of course, the students who participated in the exchange programmes under Erasmus needed to have the work that they did during their year abroad recognised in a standardised way. The Bologna process has therefore put particular emphasis on two things. The first is the standardisation of the degree process and the introduction of what is called the three-cycle pattern—the three-year bachelor’s degree, the two-year master’s degree and the three to four-year PhD doctoral programme. The second is the introduction of the European credit transfer system, which enables those who participated in the programme to gain credit for the work that they have done and for a degree of equivalence to be recognised between universities participating in the programme.

Last year’s initiatives were stimulated by the increasing concern on the part of the Commission that Europe was not holding its own in the higher education league tables at a time when the knowledge economy was becoming more and more important—a trend reinforced by last week’s publication of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, which saw the top institutions in China, Taiwan, South Korea and, notably, Singapore all moving up the rankings, while generally European institutions, with the exception, interestingly, of those in the Netherlands, were tending to lose rank. The Commission noted that by 2020 35% of the jobs in the EU would require graduate-level training, whereas only 26% of the workforce currently had higher education qualifications. It therefore set the target that 40% of the workforce should have completed the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree by 2020.

To this effect, the Commission is now proposing to strengthen the Bologna process in a number of ways. Some of these strike me as being somewhat aspirational—for example, the aim to put higher education,

“at the centre of innovation, job creation and employability”,

by, among other things, encouraging the convertibility of academic innovation into business enterprise. How many times have we wished that to be the case? We continue wishing it. Nevertheless, it still strikes me that it is aspirational in its aim. Another is supporting the internationalisation of higher education, strengthening the synergies, or joined-up thinking, between the EU and the intergovernmental processes.

Perhaps more to the point in terms of joined-up government, the Commission is also proposing to develop the complementarity between the European Union’s funding instruments—for example, the structural and cohesion funds—and the framework programme, now renamed Horizon 2020, as well as Erasmus for All, the new training and education programme. I shall come back to that in a moment because I have some comments on those proposals.

However, the Commission’s most substantive proposal is the launching of yet another set of league tables ranking universities within the European Union—the U-Multirank, a “ranking and information tool”, as it is called. I have to say that I fully endorse the scepticism shown by the committee and the Government about whether this will serve any useful purpose.

The second substantive proposal by the Commission is the introduction of a new EU-level loan facility to boost mobility at master’s level. I have much more sympathy with this particular proposal. The Government’s White Paper on higher education, published last year, completely ignored the question of postgraduate funding and the knock-on effect of the new fee regime on postgraduate training. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has made clear, there are huge problems facing postgraduates now.

I have been a member of an all-party commission of the two Houses looking at postgraduate education and we shall be publishing our report at the end of October. In it we note the need for a proper loan scheme for the master’s-level students. The present commercial scheme is not working at all well. In our report, we argue that the Government need to take cognisance of that and make sure that a proper scheme is introduced. It could be a government-backed scheme or perhaps they should work with the banks to produce a commercial scheme that is much more workable.

As I understand it, the proposed European scheme from the Commission would apply only to help Erasmus students; in other words, those who are on an exchange with other European universities. Nevertheless, I think it would have the effect of both helping those students to undertake master’s work and encouraging the interchange between different universities within Europe, which, like other noble Lords, I think is something that we need to encourage.

As the committee’s report makes clear, the UK’s higher education establishment has, from the start, been slightly disconnected from the Bologna process. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, mentioned that the three-cycle model—the bachelor, master’s and doctorate, which is sometimes called the Anglo-Saxon model—was essentially the US model, which became standardised in the UK in the 1970s and 1980s. Therefore, we can justifiably claim to have moved closer to the Bologna process than other countries because we had already started it. It is a much more difficult option for other countries and there is much more opposition in other countries; in particular, many German universities feel that the process short-changes what they regard as being a proper university education. This is where the problems of the one-year master’s come in; they feel that a one-year master’s is quite inadequate training for those who wish to go on to do a PhD.

The second factor in the British attitudes towards Bologna has been the fact that many British students who go abroad at postgraduate level have chosen to go to the United States rather than to European universities. The European programmes, the Erasmus programme, and for the postgraduates the Marie Curie exchange programmes, have done a great deal to change attitudes and I endorse entirely those who argue that there is great value to be gained by students who have that experience. It is very much my experience from teaching at the University of Sussex in the early days of Erasmus that students who, in that case, went abroad for a year came back with very much wider horizons and a much better attitude to studying than those who did not have that experience.

However, it is notable that in spite of that, UK universities have not really adopted and adapted to the European credit transfer system. We keep our own. We keep the old CNAA system which had 120 credits for a four-year programme as compared with the European one that looks to 60 credits. Many universities, in particular the Russell Group universities, have never really adapted to any form of credit unit framework and it is a matter for us, as I have many times lamented in this House in my championing of part-time education, because if we are to get part-timers and full-timers at FE and HE on to a par with each other, we need a proper credit transfer scheme.

Last, but by no means least, is the issue of language training. The noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, quoted the quite shameful statistics of the inward and outward comparison with something like 230,000 students coming in and only 13,000 going out.

There has been a lot of discussion about whether there should not be better information. The report suggests that more should be done for those leaving school and going on to university at the time when they apply to the universities. Universities could do far more to promote the Erasmus schemes by giving publicity to the possibility of going abroad for a year and by making it much easier for students to take language courses as a supplementary to their other studies. All the time I was at the University of Sussex, I taught a course in which science students, and subsequently management students, could do a language side by side with their studies and then have a year abroad to study their subject at a European university. The opportunity of doing a language at university in addition to other things is something that would benefit students and help promote this.

My experience in the early days of the Framework programme was very much in relation to scientific and project collaboration. In the early 1990s the programme was worth something like £15 billion over five years—roughly £3 billion a year spread out between 25 countries. Today, Horizon 2020 is looking at something like £80 billion over five years—£16 billion a year spread out between some 30 countries. I very much endorse the notion of pulling in funds from the structural funds and cohesion funds, and making use of them in relation to student exchanges on the one hand and promoting R and D on the other. I was involved in a study that looked at a number of European countries. One feature that emerged was the very good use made by Ireland in the 1980s and 1990s of money that it secured from the structural funds and put to training a new generation of technical students. It gave Ireland a very good infrastructure on which to build the multinational participation that marked the early, “tiger” phase of its expansion and industrialisation. Sadly, this phase was overtaken, and completely upset, by the banks.

I will end by endorsing a statement made by Imran Khan, the director-general of the Campaign for Science and Engineering. He said that in opposing the increase in Horizon 2020 funding, the UK Government were scoring an own goal. This issue was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The Framework and Erasmus science and technology programmes are among the very few programmes in which the UK does disproportionately well. Our universities are extremely successful in attracting these funds and making good use of them. By encouraging the increase in the budget we are bringing money into the UK for research and development. Our record in funding R and D is miserable. We hover along at about 1.8% of GDP. The target is 3%. Germany is up to that level, Japan is above it and the United States is almost up to it, but we are falling below it. This is one way in which more funding can be attracted, and it is scoring an own goal to oppose it.

My Lords, I phoned up the Government Whips’ Office this morning to find out how much time we had to speak in the debate. I was told that we had five minutes each, so I scrubbed out most of my speech. Noble Lords will be pleased to know that I cannot read what is underneath the scrubbed-out bits, so my speech will be a bit shorter than some that have just been given.

Europe is in the throes of an existential crisis. The status quo is not an option. Either there will have to be profound reorganisation in the direction of much greater integration with political and economic unity, or the alternative is disintegration, at least of the core structures of the European Union. No one in their right mind would want the second of these alternatives. The first, if successful, will change everything. Europe will look very different after the next five or six years and the theorem of changing everything will apply to higher education as much as to other areas.

It is interesting to look back at the Bologna declaration of June 1999. My noble friend Lady Blackstone was present and obviously had a strong impact on what emerged, and she is a signatory to the document. The Bologna declaration was made against a totally different background in Europe from the one we have today. Its point of origin was enlargement and the transfer of the Union into eastern Europe. The document was highly optimistic about what it called the “extraordinary achievements” of the preceding few years in Europe. That was a more or less completely different moral tone from today. I do not know whether it is a phrase of my noble friend—probably not, from what she said—but it aimed at creating a “Europe of knowledge” as a means of promoting social and economic welfare. Are those objectives still relevant in a Europe that is teetering on the edge of crisis and which is bound to have fundamental structural reform? You bet they are; the argument could be made that they are even more relevant. In 1999, further integration looked to be evolutionary in nature and long term. Now it has to be much more sudden and radical. Higher education is crucial because it straddles areas relevant to growth and job creation, research and innovation and the enrichment of European civic consciousness.

The report cautiously and gently suggests investing more money in some areas of the Bologna process. In this situation, I am not sure whether we should be modest about it, because certainly in terms of the EU itself, the whole EU budget will have to be reappraised and undoubtedly will be over the next few years as part of the process of building a more integrated continent. So I do not think it is right to take a modest “give us a little bit more money” approach because a lot that is much more fundamental is going on.

I agree with almost all the findings and recommendations of the report, although I think it could have been much more adventurous and directed towards the current crisis. It seems to be an opportunity rather than a problem. At the moment there are two Europes. There is what can be called “paper Europe”, a Europe of endless plans, documents and declarations that mostly remain plans on paper, and there is the real Europe, in turmoil and looking for new modes of growth. It will have to become much more competitive than in the past because it has fallen behind other areas of the world. It is obvious that higher education is crucial to that. We do not want a set of paper conclusions; we want some more substantive ones.

I want to make a few brief comments in conclusion. First, I fully endorse the contribution of the Erasmus programme to the traits mentioned on page 32. They are similar to what the noble Baroness talked about: character development, building confidence, increased cultural awareness and enhanced employability. Those who are pro-Europe, as I am, will be looking to create a pan-European younger generation for a much more integrated and competitive Europe because, if we are going to be competitive, we will have to have a lot more labour mobility.

Secondly, as I know from my experience as director of the London School of Economics, which gave a lot of attention to these issues, many problems remain in finding a balance between standardisation and diversity. For example, if you look at careers structures, it is relatively easy for students and researchers from other EU countries to get on an academic career track in the UK but the reverse is much more difficult. French or Italian universities are much more closed to the outside than our universities are. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on that if she has time.

Thirdly, and finally, the problems noted on pages 37 to 40 of the report are very real. In my experience, virtually all Erasmus students who came to the LSE and to Cambridge, where I used to teach, were high achievers and came from more affluent families. I very much agree that there should be programmes in place to counter this tendency, and again would welcome the comments of the Minister.

My Lords, the significance of the report we are debating can hardly be exaggerated, for two main reasons. First, the future competitiveness of the European Union in a knowledge-based global economy will crucially depend on the capacity and quality of its higher education sector. Currently European countries—those within the eurozone and those outside it such as Britain—are losing competitiveness and market share at a rate that bodes ill for our future.

Secondly, the higher education sector is one of the relatively few parts of the European economy that has a credible prospect of growth and of playing a leadership role in an increasingly interdependent world. It could be, as it already is for this country, a major source of invisible exports and what is often called soft power for the foreseeable future. Add the fact that with four out of the top 20 universities in the world, according to a recently published league table, Britain is by a long distance the most effective European performer in this sector, and you have an overwhelming case for congratulating my noble friend Lady Young on her committee’s excellent and informative report and her introduction of it today.

I also congratulate my noble friend on deploring the short-sighted decision that led to the committee’s disappearance at the beginning of the Session. The sub-committee I chair, which has taken on responsibility for scrutinising that area of EU policy, will do its best to keep up the high standards set by its predecessor, but it will be a hard act to follow and I am delighted that the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, will be providing continuity.

If, as I believe, Britain is in the lead among European countries in the higher education sector, should we be afraid of more competition, more co-operation at the European level and more exchanges of students and staff, as this report recommends? Quite the contrary, I would argue. Our main competitors in the field of higher education are not other European countries but countries such as the US, Canada and Australia. What other European country in such a relatively strong position—say, France in agriculture or Germany in industry—would not be out there actively seeking to shape Europe’s policies in this field, to influence the evolution of the Bologna process, which aims to strengthen the sector in Europe? However, there is little or no sign of the Government doing that. You could comb the speeches of the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the Business Secretary and the Minister for Europe and you would find no trace of that kind of thinking. Let us hope that the Minister will make a modest contribution to filling that lacuna when she replies to this debate.

This report recommends, quite rightly in my view, that Britain should be working in the negotiations for a multiannual financial framework for the next five or seven years, which are currently under way in Brussels, for a larger share of scarce EU resources to go to higher education and research than in previous budgets. This must be in our national as well as in the wider European interest. But here, as elsewhere, the dead hand of Her Majesty’s Treasury is insisting that we oppose any increases anywhere out of fear of triggering an overall increase in the budget ceiling. That is a recipe for losing the support of other like-minded member states which want to see the budget shifting away from the old pattern and the old priorities and giving more weight to the objectives of the European Union’s 2020 agenda in which this sector figures prominently. It will encourage an eventual outcome which consists merely of the top-slicing of existing patterns of expenditure. What a wasted opportunity that would be. I hope that the Minister can show more flexibility than that.

One issue not covered by the report, although I was glad to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and others refer to it, is that of student visas for non-EU undergraduates, postgraduates and teaching staff wishing to come to our universities, perhaps because this is not a matter of policy for the EU as such. However, it could critically affect our ability to play a leadership role in Europe and more widely and have a negative impact on the capacity of this sector to enhance our and the rest of Europe’s invisible exports to, and future influence in, the great emerging economies such as those of China, India, Brazil, South Africa, Nigeria and Indonesia.

A recent report from the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee of the House of Commons has highlighted just how misguided and damaging is the Government’s policy of lumping those who come to study here in the wider category of immigrants and imposing their targets for reducing immigration on overseas students, whose numbers it is surely in our national interest to increase, not decrease, since they bring resources to this country and to our universities. In the light of that report and of the many other representations made to the Government by the universities and those of us who have raised the matter in this House, I urge the Government to rethink this aberrant policy.

This is not just a matter of changing the statistical presentation of immigration, which up to now has included students together with other immigrants; that is, everyone who comes here for a year or more. What is being sought—and I emphasise this—is to exclude students from the public policy implications and impact of the Government’s target of reducing net immigration to the “tens of thousands” by 2015. When the Minister for Higher Education spoke to Universities UK early last month, he said that the Government would in future disaggregate the statistics and present the statistics for students separately from those for other immigrants. That could be a step in the right direction, but it was not the step that matters. The step that matters is for the Government to state categorically that they do not include students in the public policy implications of their objective of reducing net migration to tens of thousands by 2015. Until they say that, this sector will get squeezed in the way that it has been squeezed already, and it will go on being squeezed if that statement is not made. I hope that the Minister replying to this debate will be able to say, at the very least, that a review of that policy is now under way.

My Lords, the report, The Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe, is an important and timely document. It alerts us to developments within the European Union and suggests that we need to keep a close watch on them if we are fully to exploit the opportunities that have arisen for co-ordination and collaboration.

The report also serves to remind us that, unless we take care, we are in danger of losing some of the advantages that our universities enjoy in the competition to attract overseas students. The report is relatively brief, and it might be helpful to give it a fuller context by recalling some of the recent history of our university system. I suggest that some things have gone amiss in the course of the modernisation of higher education in the UK.

The British university sector has grown remarkably in the past 20 or 30 years. The UK probably has a higher proportion of the relevant age group in higher education than any other European country. The participation rate for the year 2010-11, as calculated by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, was 47%. When I embarked on my own undergraduate studies some 45 years ago, only a small proportion of the age group attended universities, and the participation rate was probably no more than 12%. There was a favourable ratio of staff to students. We were treated in a manner that was casual but intimate, and if we showed aptitude or enthusiasm attention was lavished on us.

The academics were, in the main, as hardworking as they are today. However, they were free from the unsettling demands of research assessment exercises and national surveys of student satisfaction. They also benefited from the security of their jobs. Nowadays, academics within research-orientated universities who fail to perform sufficiently in their research and in its publication are liable to have their careers terminated, either by the non-renewal of a temporary contract or by early retirement. In the past, if their research faltered they had a ready alibi, which was to undertake administrative duties. The consequence was that there were few professional administrators in universities. The administration was also highly efficient, and a maximum output was achieved from a minimal input.

Nowadays, professional administrators, who used to play a minor role, are more numerous than the academic staff. The balance began to alter in the 1980s, when large numbers of academic staff were retired or dismissed as a consequence of budgetary cuts. Additional administrators were needed to oversee these cuts and dismissals, and the dismissals led to a dearth of academic staff available for administrative duties. At that time, the prospects of early advancement in the academic profession all but vanished and there were severe restrictions on academic salaries. Academic employment became unattractive to British nationals, and the numbers of British students pursuing master’s degrees and PhD qualifications in some subjects declined almost to zero.

Today, there continues to be a dearth of native trainee academics. Very little financial support is provided to native postgraduate students and, given the current burden of undergraduate fees, few people can afford to prolong their studies. Today, British universities recruit the majority of their young academic staff from other countries, and this is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future.

This circumstance, which has barely been recognised by politicians or the public at large, has had some adverse consequences. It has led to an increasing impermanence of academic staff. The turnover in some of the academic departments in which I have served has reached as high as 30% in one year. The impermanence of the staff is one of the factors that have contributed to a loss of ownership on the part of the academics of the processes of student recruitment, teaching and examining. The administrative staff have been exercising increasing control in these areas, with consequences that have often been deleterious. The academic staff, who are a weakened force, have been unable to resist incursions on to their rightful domain.

The increasing commercialisation and customer orientation of the enterprises of higher education have meant that student satisfaction has become a guiding principle. This has had adverse consequences both in teaching and examining. There has been a remarkable inflation of the grades in the assessment of the exams. When I was pursuing my undergraduate studies, the preponderant honours award for the final exams was a Lower Second. Nowadays, the majority of students are awarded at least an Upper Second. The failure to achieve the higher classes of honours degree can prejudice a person’s employment prospects.

A reputation for stringency can also prejudice a department’s ability to recruit the students it needs, which can have grave financial consequences. In one of the universities of which I have had experience, the management has issued an injunction that at least 70% of the students should be awarded First or Upper Second degrees. The failures of some departments to achieve this target have led to visitations from the quality-control administration, which has been pursuing an agenda that is directly opposed to the purpose that it is ostensibly intended to serve. The system of honour classifications is under attack. In some quarters, it has been declared that it is no longer fit for purpose. The purpose has surely changed over time.

The formative or didactic purpose of exams, which is the role they play in reaffirming knowledge, has given way to their summative purpose, which is their role in generating qualifications. Part of the impetus behind the desire to abolish honours classification is the fact that most of us dislike being subject to judgment. The honours system implies failure as well as success. Those who propose that the honours classification should be superseded have argued in favour of transcripts designed to give an assessment of the overall worth of individual students. It has been argued that those transcripts should reflect multiple criteria and give credit for a variety of social and extra-curricular activities as well as for academic performance.

I baulk at such a presumptuous intention to make such broad judgments on a person’s worth. Nevertheless, in a system based on the accumulation of credit, the majority of students will graduate from universities brimful with credit, and there will be few ostensible failures. Such a system would surely certainly enhance customer satisfaction.

Surveys of student satisfaction nowadays accompany every taught course. In some cases, the objective of customer satisfaction is placing a major constraint on what can be taught to undergraduates. The courses that tend to be the least popular are those that are technically demanding and those that have a major mathematical content. Such courses are often essential to the mastery of an academic discipline. The responses to them within surveys of satisfaction tend to be dichotomised. If they are demanding and well taught, such courses are liable to receive plaudits from the most able students, but they will usually be accompanied by bitter complaints from those whose have struggled.

The averaged indices of satisfaction of courses that are demanding are liable to be low, which will lead inevitably to pressures to curtail or suspend them. When such pressures come directly from the university administrators, academics are nowadays rarely able to resist them. The consequences for the quality of undergraduate education can be dire.

I have paid rather little attention to the detailed recommendations of the report. I am pleased that others have discussed them more fully. Instead, I have described what the processes of modernisation have implied for the British system. They have created some significant problems.

The report has alerted us to one significant problem, which is that the natural advantage that Britain has enjoyed in attracting overseas students may not endure. It points to the fact that nowadays many European universities teach their courses in English, which has become the modern global lingua franca as well as the pre-eminent language of academic discourse. To benefit from being taught in English, students no longer need to come to the UK. The extraordinary treatment of overseas students by the UK Border Agency now poses a strong deterrent to them.

At a time when many European universities are purging themselves of the last remnants of medievalism, British universities are becoming increasingly subject to the pathologies of the modern age. The prognosis is not good for them, and they should be fearful of being rapidly overhauled and outdistanced by their competitors in Europe and elsewhere.

My Lords, I shall focus on what the report says about student mobility in relation to the Erasmus scheme and the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages. I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Group on Modern Languages and vice-president of the Chartered Institute of Linguists.

I warmly welcome the committee’s conclusions on the importance of the Erasmus scheme: in particular, that the fee waiver should be retained to encourage participation and not deter students who may already be finding university fees a bit of a stretch. There is already early evidence that recruitment to modern language degree courses, which of course are four-year courses, has been adversely affected by fee increases. It seems that by no means all Russell Group university language departments have succeeded in recruiting to target this year and that at least three of them have recruited so badly that degree programmes are likely to close. In that light, the recent settlement agreed with the Government for study and work abroad was most welcome, minimising disincentives to outgoing UK student mobility for both students and their home universities.

The UK benefit from the Erasmus scheme is still very much one way. We benefit from the enrichment to students and university life provided by incoming students but, sadly, three times as many students from Germany, France and Spain take the opportunity to study abroad as their British peers. In 2009-10, we had 406,000 foreign students here, but only 33,000 UK students were abroad. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who said that universities themselves should be doing much more about this. They should encourage all students, not just the linguists, to know about and take advantage of the Erasmus scheme.

The committee suggests—and it is right—that the language deficit among our students is a major factor in the UK’s inability to benefit fully from Erasmus. The significant increase in funding from 2014 to 2020 will remain untapped by the UK unless we can produce greater numbers of linguistically confident and competent students in HE, whether they are studying modern languages or not. I wish that more universities would follow the example of UCL and insist that all applicants, irrespective of subject, should have a GCSE or equivalent in a foreign language—or that if they do not, should undertake to study one during their first year. This is surely the right approach for a modern university with an international perspective and awareness. No graduate should be a monoglot, even if their one language is English. Most continental universities ensure that all their graduates have two or three languages to a decent level.

I take slight issue with the committee for saying that the evidence for the benefits of student mobility on employability is still anecdotal. The British Academy’s report, Valuing the Year Abroad, which was also published in March this year, set out some robust evidence for the link between mobility and employability and is just the latest evidence that one might quote. Various employer and business surveys have shown for years how much employers value languages. Over 70% of UK employers say that they are not happy with the language skills of UK graduates and are being forced increasingly to recruit from overseas to meet their needs. This applies to business in all sectors. We are damaging both the economic competitiveness of the UK and the employment chances of young people in a global labour market if we allow this language deficit to continue.

The committee also asserts that English is the dominant language in the academic world and in EU institutions. However, I believe that that is a great oversimplification and that where it is the case it will not necessarily remain so. It is short-sighted to believe that English is enough. One interesting indicator is the language of the internet. The fact is that content on the internet in English is declining rapidly, from over 50% in 2000 to only 29% in 2009. In the same period, content in Mandarin or Cantonese quadrupled and continues to rise rapidly, particularly in the field of scientific research.

As far as EU institutions are concerned, there is an interesting paradox. The truth is that as multilingualism within the EU has grown following the expansion of member states, the need for English has also grown. This is because English is what the directorate of interpreting services calls a bridge language. You would be very hard pushed to find many people who could do simultaneous interpretation between, say, Finnish and Maltese, or between Latvian and Greek. What happens is that they go from language A to English, then English to language B. The trouble is that the UK is not producing enough language graduates to meet the need, either in the EU or in the United Nations and other institutions. Meetings in all of them often have to be cancelled because there simply are not enough people in the language services who are English native speakers and able to work in other languages. This is not doing a lot for our reputation as a nation in these institutions, and is why the committee whose report we are debating was so imaginatively right to recommend that languages should be compulsory in both primary and secondary schools. Without this, the HE sector will not have the raw material to maintain and develop its language teaching and learning.

We desperately need not just more specialist linguists but more economists, geographers, scientists and others who can also handle themselves in at least one other language—as graduates from the US, China, India and most of the rest of the EU already can. As the committee’s report says, this goes back to the need for better language teaching in schools. I am delighted that the Government have made such a strong case recently for the introduction of compulsory languages in primary schools from 2014. This will be an important step in addressing our national languages deficit, but only one small step, insufficient alone to secure the higher standards of achievement that we need to see. The arguments that the Government themselves have made in relation to primary education, in terms of European and global comparability, apply equally to key stage 4. International research shows that an early start to language learning is not a panacea; it needs continuity through to secondary school. In my view, compulsory languages up to key stage 4 should also be a part of the Government’s curriculum review. Just making them compulsory is not enough in itself, of course; we also need radical improvements to the syllabus and to teaching methods, especially the emphasis on spoken language, which, as both Ofsted and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, have pointed out, is not nearly good enough.

The EBacc has had a positive effect, which is very welcome, but on only 54% of state schools. The other 46% have said that they will not be changing or improving a thing about their language offer as a result of the EBacc. We must stop the current trend of languages becoming an elitist subject and university language departments being dominated by students from the independent schools because fewer and fewer state school-leavers are actually qualified to apply for those courses. Without compulsory languages at key stage 4, we are unlikely to be successful in exploiting the opportunities provided by the Erasmus scheme to enable young British people to achieve their potential.

It is important to point out that languages for all up to key stage 4 does not necessarily mean forcing every child to do a GCSE. There are several other ways of accrediting language learning, not least the language NVQ, which is highly favoured by business. Will the Minister assure me that the question of languages for all at key stage 4 is still under active consideration, and does she agree that there is a strong case to be argued?

Given the cross-departmental relevance of all the aspects of modern foreign languages that I have touched on, not just for BIS but for the DfE and the Treasury, not to mention for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, does the Minister agree that it would make sense to designate a Minister with cross-cutting responsibility for languages policy so that the interconnectedness between these sectors, from primary schools through to a competitive economy, could be properly made and monitored and better served by coherent policy?

My Lords, I welcome this report and debate on modernising higher education in Europe. It is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, who is emphasising modern-language teaching. I have friends in France who have a company that is developing software to enable French companies to work with British ones. It is important that the translation of English is regional; if you are in a Birmingham factory, you jolly well want the French people to speak Brummie, not some other language. Of course, English is a broad and complex subject, and sometimes when we say “English” we should think about what we are saying.

Those of us of a certain age have hugely benefited from this extraordinary period over the past 30 to 40 years of the renewed Europeanisation of academic life. Around 130 years ago my great-grandfather, after doing medicine and chemistry at Oxford and having been introduced to his wife by none other than Oscar Wilde on The High, then went to Germany to study medicine. Then there was a long period when there was a breakdown in relations across Europe during the first half of the previous century, and it is very gratifying now that that has all been restored. It is also interesting to remind noble Lords that we should remember that the PhD degree, which came from Germany, was still regarded in Cambridge in the 1960s as an interesting experiment.

The report emphasises the growing masters’ courses in English. One of the features that it does not emphasise is that the ones that I know about in the Netherlands are not just courses in one university; they are collaborative across universities, and that is a very important feature. Almost every master’s course in the UK is given by a university, but there is no subject in which you would not benefit from spending a week here, a week there and so on. I have participated in that.

The other important point is that these advanced masters’ courses are all highly specialised, even the ones I have just referred to. Surely we should be moving to masters’ courses in English or well understood languages to enable students in Europe to understand and study broader issues, perhaps involving social science questions, environment, health or business. Business schools are one of the areas that enable people across Europe to study processes and ideas in a very broad way.

Perhaps the greatest critique, which is not mentioned in this report, of European higher education is that China, in thinking about its higher education, is moving away from the European model. It is moving to the American model because it realises that it is important that people have a broad education when they start higher education. They should learn about languages, philosophy, politics and science, as you do in the United States, where you have to know the name of the planets, for example, even if you are studying English literature.

Is Europe going to follow this idea? Fifty years ago, Lord Snow spoke of the need to combine science and humanities teaching. He visited the school I was at and talked about Russian physicists having to write essays about the character of Natasha in War and Peace, which is an inconceivable concept in the way we educate people now. We are now changing in the UK. There is a new course at University College London on humanities and science. Interestingly, it is partly funded by the movement of science funds into humanities as the result of the Government reducing the humanities budget. It is an ill wind, et cetera. It is also interesting that some of the Netherlands universities are also developing science/arts universities, so all is not lost.

Another important feature touched on in this report and, indeed, responded to by the Government in paragraph 120, is that collaborative research is vital in EU higher education to enable us to be in this leading position. I do not quite take the gloomy view of my noble friend Lord Giddens. As a result of the EU, we have extraordinary and marvellous research programmes involving people across Europe. The attraction of EU research is that it is totally unexpected. You have no idea what your colleagues in Latvia, Greece or some other place are going to do. It is not like, if I may say so, a grant from Swindon when you more or less have to say what you are going to do and you do it. If you have a European project, you have no idea what is going to happen, and really new things happen. This is, of course, a very minority view about European science. Most of my colleagues prefer a grant from Swindon, which is very regular and predictable. I believe that this EC practice of insisting upon collaborative projects is bringing Europe together, and we are getting many important ideas. I believe this should be welcomed. The Government in their welcome response to the report referred to the importance of small companies benefiting from these developments and their connection to the Technology Strategy Board.

Another important development in European higher education and science in the past 20 or 30 years has been the formation of networks of activities across universities. I was involved in the formation of something with the indigestible title of ERCOFTAC—European research community for flow turbulence and combustion. It involved major European companies and many of the major universities and technical institutions. Forming that kind of bottom-up network was considerably resisted by officials in national research communities and by the European Commission. They said, “It’s our job to tell you what networks you have. We’re going to control them”. We said, “No. We’re going to have our own”. Periodically European-funded networks participated in this bottom-up network, which has lasted longer than every finite-time initiative from the councils. In the 1990s, we had a meeting at the Royal Society that looked at these large numbers of groups from beekeepers and watchmakers to physicists and engineers. This is a great feature of European development, and you do not see it on any other major continent. Industry has been highly supportive of this. As a result of such networks, databases and scientific developments have been formed.

One of the interesting developments in Europe is that Airbus, for example, shares its future plans. It is going to produce some sort of “Dan Dare” paper-dart-like aeroplanes in future. We all know about this in Europe, and the way in which the wings are going to wobble around and hopefully be controlled. It is an extraordinary participation of universities and industry, the like of which you do not find in any other country. Boeing keeps its future plans very secret.

In the enlightened world I see around us in Europe, if you wear these rose-tinted glasses, the United Kingdom research councils should be much keener on this. They should be in much closer contact with the other EU research councils. If they get a research grant, they should be able to ring up their friend in Germany, Paris or Italy to find out whether some proposal is similar to what they are doing. Not a lot of that happens.

It is interesting that, still as a result of the lack of languages, a lot of EU science is not credited in the UK because it is not in English. A really important point was mentioned in a meeting that I had a couple of weeks ago in Bergen in Norway: one of the most important findings about climate change—the fact that we have very long periods of great heat or cold—was published in French. It is nowhere published in the English language. Therefore, at the moment, it may not appear in the next IPCC report on climate change. I had to rush to my French friend and say, “For goodness’s sake, quickly write this in English. Then it will probably be credited”. The consequences of this lack of understanding of other languages have many practical applications.

The movement of students, as other noble Lords have commented, has great merits. Those of us in British universities have seen excellent students arriving and bringing with them new ideas. Some of them have then also joined small British companies. The French universities’ “stage”, as they put it, can be held not just in another university, but in companies. Many of them make this transition, and bring with them their ideas, their language skills and employability.

The British Government could do much more— I welcome that this is highlighted in the report—in showing UK students the merits of doing some of their advanced work in universities in other European countries. How should this be done? It is interesting. I was talking to colleagues in Delft this week. Even in Delft, they find that their academics do not understand what happens in Brussels, which is not far away. They want their academics to understand the EC programmes, so they put them all in a bus and took them to Brussels in order to do so, with great benefits. Surely we should have familiarisation courses for students who are very unaware of what happens on the continent. That may be the first way of overcoming this problem.

One of the reasons why British companies and even certain government agencies now employ many continental rather than British graduates is simply because the continental graduates arrive with great familiarity of several languages and an understanding of wider European institutions, industry and so on. The Met Office now employs a considerable number of scientists and experts from these countries, which they did not use to. I am glad to say that our government agencies are broader than other European agencies in being able to employ people from other countries. However, the reason is that it is because our graduates do not have this broader savoir faire, as one might call it. That will continue until UK universities are taught in their entry standards and insist that they know at least one other language. Special courses could be laid on by universities, as they are at UCL and many other universities I know. For example, professional bodies like engineers, bankers and lawyers should also insist upon this.

Finally, since this is a report to government, I can see no reason why the Civil Service entry examinations should not include a foreign language qualification, which would show some seriousness. In this debate, we have tended to talk about foreign languages as something European. Of course, many tens of thousands of our Civil Servants speak several Asian languages. We should not forget that they are also modern languages. It is extremely important that we have people speaking Asian languages and we have that benefit because of Britain’s enlightened immigration policy. Long may it last.

My Lords, in June 2011 my company, Cobra Beer, signed a joint venture with Molsen Coors, one of the world’s largest brewers in India, to build on the global joint venture that we had already formed in 2009. Molsen Coors and Cobra Beers in India bought the only brewery in the state of Bihar. In the past year, I have got to know more about Bihar’s history. It is the state where Buddha started Buddhism. It is where one of the most powerful ancient empires under the emperor Ashoka, the Mauryan empire, was based. It is where one of the world’s most famous ancient universities, Nalanda, was founded around the fifth century AD and was closed in 1197AD. Nalanda was closing down when Oxford and Cambridge were starting. We in Europe are fortunate to have a host of ancient universities, including Bologna, Salamanca, Oxford and Cambridge, and I could go on. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young, for leading this debate.

Where Europe in concerned, Britain is a proud member of the EU. Yet there is always the debate about “Are we in Britain contributing more to Europe than we are getting out of it? Is European governance, regulation and red tape stifling or hampering Britain or is it helping to improve Britain? Is our trade too dependent on Europe, when the world’s centre of gravity is moving east and south?”.

Fortunately, we made the right decision to stay out of the euro. To me, the eurozone crisis shows that pushing towards a united states of Europe is a bridge too far. The euro has proven itself to be an abject failure where one size cannot fit all and a group of countries in Europe can never be in sync at the same time, and thus should never be straitjacketed by a single exchange rate and a single currency. That can work only if you have a true political, fiscal, financial and economic union with a central defence and a central foreign service such as the federal systems in the United States of America or a country like India. I believe that that will never happen in Europe. It is a utopian dream to anyone who thinks that it will. Given this, in Europe, where higher education is concerned, on the face of it there appears to be the right balance in encouraging interaction between European universities, movement of students between countries and funding of research around the EU. Some of these things are handled by the EU directly, but others, most notably the Bologna process, operate outside the EU, and involve both EU and non-EU countries.

As the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, Britain has some of the best higher education in the world and it is one of our greatest sources of soft power. As many noble Lords have said, we are fortunate to have the best higher education in the world alongside the United States. I do not think that we need another ranking system, which has been mooted. We have got enough rankings of universities but whichever ranking you look at we in Britain are right up there at the top. Yet that is in spite of our higher education funding being a fraction as a proportion of GDP compared to our competitors in the United States and on the continent.

My figures are slightly different from those given by the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman. We spend 1.3% of GDP on higher education compared to 3.1% in America and an EU median of 2.6%. We spend exactly half a percentage of GDP on higher education as the median European figure and far less than the United States of America. Given this, the Government were short-sighted and irresponsible in cutting higher education funding and teaching funding by up to 80%, thus forcing universities to almost treble their students’ tuition fees in one go.

We are shooting ourselves in the foot and this is deterring students, both domestic and from the EU. Our domestic students will be burdened with loans for up to 30 years. Will the Minister confirm the financial arrangements—this issue has been raised—that are available to EU students attending British universities? Will she give us the number of EU students who applied to British universities for the 2012-13 academic year versus the number who applied for 2011-12? Will she also confirm the actual number of EU students who enrolled in this academic year compared with the previous year?

We have a huge advantage with the English language being the world’s global language. Not only do we have the reputation for having the best universities in the world but we also know that EU students want to come here to enhance their English skills at UK universities—something that they know is essential around the world. In the state of Bihar, the chief Minister told me something that I would never have heard in India some years ago—that children in his state wanted to learn English, and that the teachers needed to be able to learn it to teach it to the students because it was the international language. The internet has only enhanced this.

On the other hand—and on this I completely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins—we must continue to encourage our students to learn foreign languages, and in particular European languages such as Spanish and French that are spoken so widely around the world. The Erasmus scheme must be encouraged among UK students, but we languish at the bottom of the list among the large EU countries in terms of outgoing Erasmus students. What are the Government doing to try to get us higher up this list? What are they doing to encourage the Erasmus scheme to be more flexible? The average time spent is about six months. Could students not be encouraged to spend a term, or just a few months?

Then there is the area of R and D, which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, spoke about. We are so underfunded as a country. We need European Union funding; in Britain we spend 1.7% of our GDP on research and development, compared with an EU median of 2%—let alone countries like Germany, which spends 2.8% and the United States, which spends 2.7%. Are the Government doing enough to ensure that the Horizon 2020 figure of €80 billion will be maintained, even if other parts of the Commission budget must fall?

I wrote a foreword for a book called Big Ideas for the Future, produced by Universities UK and Research Councils UK. In spite of our underfunding in research and development, we have 200 examples in that publication of innovations coming out of British universities that are world-beating and world-changing. We are doing this, and the Chancellor is asking for the EU budget to be cut—although that is understandable. But can the Minister confirm that the EU R and D budget is not to be cut and that we will stick to the Horizon 2020 plan of €80 billion, if not the €100 billion suggested by the European Parliament committee?

On the business interaction with universities that is talked about, are we using Cambridge as an example of a cluster? There are three great university clusters in the world. One is Silicon Valley, which is head and shoulders above the rest. Then we have the Cambridge, Boston cluster, with MIT, and the cluster with Cambridge University here, which is one of the best in the world. What are we doing to encourage this around Europe? The report does not really talk about this.

Furthermore, what are the Government doing to encourage the European Union to have a strategy to attract students from around the world, working in a co-ordinated manner to market European universities to developing countries and the emerging markets? Could we have flexible degrees, where a student from India could come for a degree to the UK but spend a year of that degree at one or more European universities as part of their course? We are competing, as Europe, with Australia, Canada and the United States of America.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, this Government continue to insist on including student figures within immigration figures. I have challenged the Home Secretary on this and I am told that we are using internationally recognised figures. That is not the case. Could the Minister confirm that countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States of America all include student figures as a separate category from immigration figures? The signal that we are sending out is awful. I am on the board of three business schools and I know that our applicants from countries such as India have plummeted. Students in India are asking, “Does Britain want us?”.

Then we had the situation at London Metropolitan University. That was a shocking incident, with the UK Border Agency having the gall to take the licence away from a university. I could challenge the UK Border Agency and say, “Tell me the number of illegal immigrants in this country”, and it would not be able to give me a figure. Even when it finds them, they cannot deport them. Yes, we need to address bogus universities and colleges and yes, we need to address bogus students—but what about the innocent students among the 2,500 at LMU who had done nothing wrong and were told that they had 60 days to find another course? Are we a police state? Is this the way to behave? The signal that we have sent out around the world once again is that Britain does not want foreign students—the students who bring in £8 billion of revenue to this country and build generational links around the world. Three generations of my family have been educated in this country. I want that to go on and on. Will the Government address this situation and redress this gross unfairness and injustice?

We are now competing with the rising powers of China and India. Britain and the European Union will compete and stay ahead only by ensuring that our higher education, research and development and innovation always lead the way. We cannot cut back on this funding now. The Government have not only cut back on HE funding but have cut back on R and D in real terms by freezing the funding of science and research. Will the Government confirm that they have frozen science and research funding? Will they admit that they are cutting it back in real terms? If we do not put higher education and research and development at the top of the agenda in Europe, we will not get ahead and we will be left behind. Britain is head and shoulders above our European counterparts in higher education. We should be leading the way for Europe to be able to compete in the decades ahead with the emerging countries, particularly the giants of China and India.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, for introducing this report. I welcome the report of the EU Committee on higher education with two minor reservations. First, it talks about modernisation of higher education. Whenever I have come across the word “modernisation” as a social scientist, I have found it to be loaded and rather disturbing. It is disturbing because it seems to imply that if you do not go along with it you are reactionary, archaic—a backwoodsman. It is also unacceptable because it seems to imply that no argument is needed on behalf of it. Simply to say that something is modern is ipso facto to suggest that you should go along with it. I am pretty sure that we can find a less loaded, more satisfactory way of describing the content of the report.

My second reservation has to do with the fact that when the report talks about modernisation of higher education it does so in the language of economic growth. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, talked about higher education being in the interests of economic growth. While I can understand why this is so important in general as well as in the context of today, we need to bear in mind that every time we talk about economic growth we instinctively think of science and technology and have a tendency to underemphasise the role of the arts, the social sciences and the humanities. When we talk about co-ordination across various European countries we are not simply thinking in terms of economic growth. We are also thinking—imaginatively, boldly—in terms of a common elite, an elite which shares a common intellectual, educational and cultural background. Unless that kind of elite is created by moving between different universities, we simply will not be able to make a success of the European project.

Having got that out of the way—in a rather boring, academic way—I turn to the more positive task of endorsing the report, especially its three major imaginative proposals. The report rightly addresses the question of the lack of mobility among British students. This is being addressed but not as effectively and extensively as one would like. UK mobility under the Erasmus programme in 2000 and 2001 was 9,000 students. Today it is 12,873, so things have moved on, but that is as nothing compared with other European countries. I shall not talk about our rivals and competitors because one should not use that language in the context of the European Union. In Germany, however, 28,000 students are taking advantage of the Erasmus programme, and in France the figure is 32,000.

It is also striking that mobility is considerably limited, not only compared to other European countries, but in terms of its depth as regards social class, race and gender. White students, for example, represent 75% of those who move across European countries. For Afro-Caribbeans, however, the figure is 0.4% out of a total student population of 1.27%. Pakistani students’ mobility is only 0.3%, although they represent 2.42% of the student population. As regards class background, it is striking that the mobility of students from higher managerial and professional backgrounds is 22.4%, but for those from lower managerial and technocratic occupational backgrounds, the figure is only 2.4%. It is striking that mobility is limited in terms of the groups of people who travel.

The advantages of mobility do not need to be emphasised here. We know that people who travel across cultures and different regions gain in experience, maturity, communication skills, greater cultural awareness and greater employment prospects. The obvious question to ask is: why are British students not taking advantage of mobility? Are they dumb? Do they not realise the way that the world is moving? Rather than blame them or language provision, I want to look a little deeper.

Why does one learn a language? How do you do so with confidence such that you are able to follow courses in that language at undergraduate level in a foreign country? When the Dutch and the Germans learn English—although the French are slightly weaker at it—they do so for at least five-and-a-half to six years and for about six periods a fortnight. If we want our students to learn French with an equivalent degree of competence, language will have to be taught in that manner. It is also worth bearing in mind that a lot of English is picked up by the French, Germans and others through television programmes and films. That kind of facility is not easily available for our students who might wish to learn French or German. What TV programmes are they going to watch in order to pick up those languages informally?

We need to pay far more attention to why people seem to be resistant to learning languages when we know that they calculate their own long-term interests and know that it would be to their advantage. Obviously we need a national strategy. We need to make sure that languages are available at primary and secondary schools, although they cannot be enforced or imposed. We also need to bear in mind that a large number of people do not move across linguistic barriers, largely for financial and other reasons. We therefore need to consider the various schemes to which the report rightly draws our attention. Grants and loans should be portable. There should be fee-waiver schemes, and those we have should be extended. It is difficult for people to go abroad to spend a semester there. We could therefore think in terms of substitutes, work placements or internships for shorter periods. We could also think in terms of vacation courses on which one could earn and learn, as lots of students do when they go to the United States. Better advice could be offered to students on the UCCA form when they apply for university, as well as by the universities themselves.

It is amazing how certain impressions are created. It is important to bear in mind that the international league tables create an impression to which the report unwittingly adds its weight. Of the top 50 universities in the world, many are in the United States but only three from Europe. All three happen to be in Britain and the implication is that the universities in France and Germany are not as good as ours. That is simply not true because you are not comparing like with like. In Germany, universities are not the centres of much of the research; much of it takes place in the Max Planck Institutes, and these are not taken into account in the world rankings. Similarly, there are great research institutes in France.

Therefore, it is important to bear in mind that our students may get the wrong impression. From my experience as a university professor, I know that many do, thinking that the Sorbonne, Heidelberg, Bonn or Berlin are not as good as, say, Hull or Exeter. That is ridiculous, yet that impression is created by suggesting that none of the European universities emerges among the top 50. It also partly explains why students do not readily move across linguistic barriers.

I turn to the second proposal in the report, which I endorse—the European research area. It is absolutely right that we should think of promoting the EU as a very desirable study and research destination. It is also striking that grand research projects and challenges are best undertaken through cross-border partnerships, and our Government need to be fully engaged. It is certainly worth bearing in mind, as some of my colleagues said earlier, that EU universities can easily sell themselves outside the EU—for example, in the United States, as well as in other parts of the world—by offering unique combinations of degrees and courses. The London School of Economics and Imperial College do not have to sell themselves in any way but, for example, Manchester or Hull, jointly with Heidelberg or the Sorbonne, could offer a degree in social sciences, economics or whatever. Students abroad, including those in the United States, would be enormously attracted by the prospect of spending two or two and a half years in Britain and half a year or a year in France or Germany. I think that we should take full advantage of the EU proposal for a European research area.

The third proposal concerns a common master’s degree. That is obviously not easy. In this country it takes one year; in Europe it tends to take two years. It is not generally a good idea to insist on uniformity but it is important that postgraduate education is encouraged. It is striking that in Britain we have seen only a 14% rise in postgraduate education in the past five years compared with 69% in the rest of Europe and 155% in non-European countries. While encouraging postgraduate education, we should also think of postgraduate research degrees, including master’s degrees, being undertaken collaboratively between various universities in Europe. For that to be possible, financial support will have to be available, especially in the arts, humanities and social sciences, where scholarships are not readily available. National support schemes should be portable and not limited merely to the countries that provide them, and there should be greater facilities to secure loans for postgraduate students.

Once we begin to think along those lines, we will begin to find a flow of students at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and when that begins to happen not only will our universities become more attractive but we will contribute towards creating a common intellectual and political elite that is capable of carrying forward the great European project.

My Lords, there is a great deal of interest, and I think importance, in the European Union Committee report, The Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe. We are indebted to my noble friend Lady Young for the report and for the many themes that it covers in some detail.

I am going to be, I hope, quite boring and concentrate on a single theme. It is discussed in paragraphs 50 to 57 and summarised in paragraphs 121 and 122. I shall put some questions to the Minister about the proposed new EU university ranking instrument, which goes by the uncharming name of U-Multirank and is, it is supposed, being developed by the European Commission. The topic is, I acknowledge, something of an outlier in the report and in the Government’s response, so it is probably pretty appropriate to reach it at the end of the debate. However, it is not unimportant; it is potentially expensive, it is unlikely to improve the quality of universities in the EU, and it is unlikely to contribute to their excellence in any way.

University ranking tables have, of course, become a well known currency and very often headline material during the past decade since the emergence of Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s academic ranking of world universities and the Times Higher Education world university rankings. As is well known—sometimes we preen ourselves on this—some leading UK universities have consistently ranked very highly on these measures, but initially few other European universities ranked highly. In the Times Higher Education rankings for 2012-13, which recently emerged, Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial were all in the top 10 and a further seven UK institutions were in the top 100. No non-UK European institutions are ranked in the top 10, but 16 are now ranked in the top 100. That is a change. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that it is remarkable that five of those 16 are in the Netherlands.

Among other things, I think that shows that these rankings have, in the decade in which they have existed, great influence on university and national higher education policy and practice. Institutions strive to rise in these rankings. That is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, pointed out, the Max Planck institutes used to be outwith the university system in Germany and therefore did not count in the ranking, but the Germans have seen the writing on the wall and have now incorporated them into universities. It is one reason why German universities are coming up the rankings quite fast.

One might wonder why, given that the problem has to some extent been cracked, and European universities are now doing reasonably well using the existing metrics, the EU is still bent on devising a further ranking system. I think the answer is that one has to go back to when these rankings first emerged, less than a decade ago—it does not go back into history—and people were horrified that almost no European universities outside the UK were even in the top 100. The UK had some in the top 10 and a good number in the top 100. It was galling for institutions of high reputation and long history to find themselves with such low rankings. In particular, I think French and German universities were appalled.

That sense of injustice, whether the rankings were merited or unmerited, is a separate point that lies behind the hope that a new measuring rod will provide the answer and that it will somehow reveal the true qualities of European universities in a more compelling and fair light. It is hoped that U-Multirank will show the diversity of institutions and their merits by ranking different aspects of performance separately. It will supposedly give us a fairer picture. I suspect that if it comes to pass, people will quickly put the various rankings together and find a single ranking for all European universities.

Some French and German universities may now achieve higher scores and they may be less inclined to want to shoot the messenger, but for many of them, and also for many UK universities, the rankings still bring unwanted and what are felt to be unfair comparisons. They are still resented. That sense of grievance is spreading and it is bound to spread further as more institutions find themselves with lower rankings than they feel they deserve. Non-EU institutions of considerable distinction in other parts of Europe are also now experiencing that disappointment and resentment.

Recently, I had the good fortune to speak to the rector of St Petersburg who told me how startling and upsetting it had been to find Russia’s leading universities—St Petersburg and Moscow State—given lowly rankings. Naturally, they are taking what they see as appropriate measures to raise their scores—note I did not say to raise their standards, which is a somewhat separate matter. It is understandable that some institutions and Governments still think that U-Multirank is a useful project in Europe, but it is quite hard to find out either whether it is still on track or who is supporting it. At a meeting in Aarhus this spring on excellence in universities, under the Danish presidency, I heard great enthusiasm for U-Multirank. A prototype is supposedly now out to tender. It is said that the first version should be available at the end of 2013, and further versions at the end of 2014 and 2015—and that the European Commission wants at least 500 participating universities at the end of the first phase, covering at least the disciplines of business and engineering.

However, no one seems particularly enthusiastic about U-Multirank. The League of European Research Universities—a dozen or so highly selective universities not in capital cities—voiced its opposition publicly as early as 2010. The rectors of the Coimbra universities—another very selective group, although not quite as selective—are apparently not happy, as I heard at a meeting in May, but they have not to my knowledge gone public about being unhappy with it or opposing it. The European Union Committee was not enthusiastic, nor was the Government’s response, but the juggernaut appears to be rolling. Are Her Majesty’s Government going to take steps to disengage, or will they remain tepidly engaged? Are they content that matters should roll—or perhaps lurch or inch—forward, and if so, why?

I will ask the Minister a few simple questions about Her Majesty’s Government’s views and plans. Is the development of U-Multirank proceeding, or is it sputtering to a halt? How much is its development expected to cost in the current year? What costs are foreseen for future years? What estimate have they made of the costs to UK universities of collecting the additional data that will have to be submitted if U-Multirank goes ahead? Do the Government believe there is a reasonable likelihood that other European university systems will be able to compile the data needed for U-Multirank, or do they believe that the data likely to be submitted will be of low quality and perhaps even bogus? Do the Government think that the U-Multirank project represents value for money?

Above all, do the Government think that U-Multirank, even if it has integrity and goes ahead, will be useful? League tables give us just a ranking. What is needed for quality control is not a ranking or league table but a judgment, and sometimes metrics, of quality or excellence—that is, of the excellence of matters that are educationally important and that matter for research. Both the committee’s and the Government’s response suggest that a ranking might be helpful for applicants to universities, who would be able more accurately to compare institutions. That is just an illusion. Students need to know far more about a course before they apply for it and commit years of their life and considerable amounts of tuition money. I am sure that they will continue to rely on institutional websites, university prospectuses, the advice of current and recent students and teachers, and site visits. Open days are a way of gaining seriously relevant information.

Ratings or rankings are not substantive enough or sound enough to be useful for these decisions. Students need ways of judging quality, not comparative success. Excellence is not a positional good. There can be many excellent universities, or perhaps few. That is what we need to know. That is why there is no reason to think that UK universities are worse just because fewer of them are in the top 100; it is simply that others are taking steps to do better in the rankings. Relative success is a merely positional good. Someone will come top even if the standards are uniformly low, just as someone will come last even if the standards are uniformly high. Should we not aim for excellence and spend less time and money on ranking? In the end, one is tempted to ask whose benefit the U-Multirank is being compiled. Cui bono?

Will the Government take an active stance? If, as I suspect, they think U-Multirank is not needed or valuable, why not say so? We could save some money and put it into research.

My Lords, it is a challenge to follow the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill of Bengarve. Throughout our deliberations she has made wise, incisive and penetrating contributions, and that is characteristic of her whole approach to public life. I am therefore certain that I do not speak for myself alone in saying how much we admire her for agreeing recently to take on a huge new challenge on behalf of society, one that is not unrelated to the issues we are discussing today; in fact it is very close to them. We all wish her well as she shoulders those responsibilities. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, and her colleagues for a helpful and useful report. It will be of value to the many people who get hold of it and study it.

Earlier today in another debate about constitutional matters, I ventured to suggest that the first reality of political life is that, whether we like it or not, from the day we are born we are locked into a totally interdependent international reality. The world is totally interdependent internationally. I feel strongly that we fail our young, and we certainly undermine the United Kingdom’s future, if we do not recognise that and then grapple with the challenge in order to meet it effectively. As I said in the earlier debate, I am quite certain that history will judge our generation of politicians by the contribution we make to finding effective answers to the challenge of international interdependence and the success, or indeed the mess, we make of it.

Universities are central to all this. Unless we enable the young of the world to prepare to participate in and contribute to an international community, what are we doing with our educational system? This is not simply a matter for those reading international relations formally. That is a daft approach. Of course we need the discipline of international relations as a subject of study, but it would be daft just to leave it at that. All the dimensions of higher education, and indeed of education at all levels, are related to what needs to be done. In that context, if we adhere at all to the concept of a real university being a community of scholars, it totally lacks relevance unless it is a vibrant international community in which all parts of the world are represented. We desperately need access socially, ethnically and internationally in order to ensure that our universities provide a climate of learning that is essentially part of the international reality.

Too often the debate is dominated by what overseas students represent to universities in terms of the income they provide and how universities are going to be in dire economic straits if the overseas students do not come. While that is part of managing universities, it is completely to miss the point, which is that the quality of the education and the educational experience in our universities is related to the degree to which they are real international and socially representative communities.

These days we have a very utilitarian approach to education, which of course cannot be dismissed; it is an important part of enabling society to function. But sometimes I wonder about where we draw the frontiers in our evaluation of what is relevant in utilitarian terms and what is not. I declare an interest as an emeritus governor of the London School of Economics, and I find it extraordinary that the Government should give the emphasis they do to science and technology but deliberately underrate the significance of the social sciences. If we are to make a success of society, if we are to meet the radical new challenges that are presenting themselves, the social sciences are absolutely essential. Even if you take a utilitarian management approach, the social sciences are every bit as important as the physical and other sciences in enabling us to make a success of what we are trying to do.

There is another point in all this. Understandably, we are desperately preoccupied with our economic plight. Our leaders have nightmare situations to deal with. But why do we want our economy to be successful? Is a successful economy just an end in itself or is it a means to having a society worth having? If we are going to have a society worth having, what about revisiting the principle of education for its own sake, and the principle that part of living as distinct from existing is discovering your potential and realising it, or discovering your creative potential and realising that? If we really care about the future of our society, we neglect at our peril an emphasis on the arts, including the creative arts.

As was powerfully argued by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, languages are crucial. There is a great importance in studying language as part of education for its own sake, and the richness of studying language, of course, but languages are also essential to the functioning of international society. We need to reinvent a passionate concern for people being able to live the fullest possible lives, and that means being able to enjoy music, art and all the rest; and we are hell-bent on creating a hell on earth if we let our commitment to these dimensions of higher education slip. The interplay in European education is crucial to all this.

To conclude, it has been a very high-minded debate today, which has avoided the immediate controversy of party conferences and the rest, but I was very depressed last night when I heard the Prime Minister’s jibe about intellectualism. Where are we taking our society if we try to score cheap political points by talking about intellectuals in politics? For God’s sake, why are we in the mess we are in? We are in the mess we are in because we have not been doing enough thinking, because we have not being doing enough evaluation of where we are and why. If I were to pick one urgent priority in education and our national life, it would be a revival of intellectualism and the ability to think about our predicament, and to think about where we could be as distinct from where we are, and what we should be doing. From that standpoint, I make no apology for introducing a hard political point at the end of this debate.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, for introducing the last report of the committee which she chaired, The Modernisation of Higher Education in Europe, and all noble Lords for their contribution to what has been a very informative and sometimes spirited debate.

There is not time to reflect on every contribution made today, though there was something of interest and value in each one. I think that we are all in debt to my noble friend Lord Giddens, whose sadly truncated speech dealt with the context for our debate, of a Europe in crisis, and drew attention to the impact that this may have. I shall pick up three main points which I hope will be noted by the Minister when she comes to respond in what I think is her first appearance as a spokesperson for BIS. We welcome her to her new role and I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for her contributions to our education debates over the year.

We have too few opportunities to debate higher education in your Lordships’ House—the wide range of comments that we have received in this debate prove that—and I, too, will raise issues both from the report and on general HE policy. Much of the report implies at least a partnership between the UK Government and our HE institutions across the Bologna process, Horizon 2002 strategy, EIT, ERA, KICs and, of course, the Erasmus programme. Several noble Lords referred to the benefits that can flow if these multilateral programmes are delivered, but it was not clear from the government response how, if funds are tight, they will be supported. With HEFCE being refocused and no direct teaching grants being provided, how will the UK Government deliver on their commitments?

Several noble Lords mentioned the poor level of participation of UK students in the Erasmus programme but also drew attention to the work of the Riordan group. Student mobility clearly suffers from poor language skills acquisition at school and at university and may also be impacted by debt aversion to the new student finance system. It also needs more direct funding. Will this be available? Can we be assured that extra support will continue to be available for disabled and disadvantaged students?

My noble friend Lady Blackstone and others raised the question of how postgraduate education is to be supported more generally. A loan system will surely not be attractive to those undergraduates who leave university with accrued loans of perhaps £50,000. What are the Government going to do in this area? We are still not very clear about this.

Listening to the debate today and reflecting on how the EU intends to modernise higher education leads us to call into question what this Government are doing to our higher education system, which, until recently at least, was regarded as one of the best in the world. Can current plans really be called modernisation? According to UCAS, there are 54,200 fewer students starting this term than there were this time last year. The evidence is clear: the trebling of tuition fees is hitting the life chances of thousands of potential students across the country, holding back their access to opportunities and at the same time damaging the UK’s economic potential, which must surely be seen to rely on a supply of highly qualified graduates to enable us to compete with new competition from emerging markets.

Other countries see the importance of higher education and are investing in it. This Government are out of touch and doing the opposite. Cutting 25,000 student places at universities this year is hardly investing in our young people or contributing to growth. Times Higher Education has estimated that the fall in student numbers will mean a loss of income to universities of around £1.3 billion over the next three years. That is the equivalent of shutting down a huge university such as the University of Manchester, together with a smaller one such as the University of Keele, or shutting two mid-sized institutions like Cambridge and Hertfordshire. It is not just that this piles yet more financial pressure on universities, already under significant strain as a result of the Government’s 80% cut to the teaching grant; complex student number control mechanisms are compounding these problems, creating further uncertainty where places at popular universities which could have easily taken them have been taken out and auctioned off to those who bid for them on price not quality.

The impact is being felt in regional economies, already suffering from a recession made in Downing Street, with fewer students studying, eating, shopping and renting in towns and cities across the UK. The University of Southampton estimates that the changes that it has experienced have generated a £16.5 million loss in income to the city. What is going to happen to our current,

“enviable track record of attracting bright overseas students to come and study in the UK”,

who, according to the chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee whose recent report has already been mentioned today,

“contribute significantly to our economy as well as to our reputation as a world-class place to do business”?

We seem to have yet another omnishambles, with what seems to be open warfare between BIS and the Home Office. Can the Minister shed light on who is winning the argument? The Immigration Minister, Mark Harper, said recently that:

“The government does not consider it appropriate to deviate from the internationally agreed definition of a migrant”.

However, in what was widely described as a damage limitation exercise, David Willetts said that the Government want,

“to publicise disaggregated figures”—

on net migration—

“so that the debate can be better informed”.

In other words, the ONS will now publish two series of net migration figures, one including students and one excluding them. Whatever happens, this has been a very sorry episode that will do lasting damage to our HE system and our economy as well as impact on the sort of soft-power issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Hannay. Mr Willetts is on record as saying that:

“There are few sectors of our economy with the capacity to grow and generate export earnings as great as higher education”,

and that,

“education exports are already worth around £14 billion, and could rise to around £20 billion in 2020 and nearly £27 billion in 2025, representing an annual growth rate of approximately 5 per cent”.

They will certainly not if the Government do not sort out this unseemly mess in very short order.

The Government in their White Paper—and we are still waiting for the promised Bill—said that they wanted a revolution in higher education and to place,

“students at the heart of the system”.

However, in reality a combination of high fees and broken and discredited number-control policies have hampered universities’ best efforts to fill their books with students ready for the transformational effects of a higher education system that was once the envy of the world.

Our universities are hurting as a result of the Government’s policies, and students will be personally paying for generations to come. They will be paying more and for longer than ever before. In fact most students will be paying back the higher fees most of their working lives. What a way to modernise higher education.

My Lords, on behalf of the Government, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, for introducing this debate and express appreciation to her and the European Union Select Committee for all their work. The Government very much welcome its thorough report. It is pleasing that such disagreement as there is between the committee and the Government is essentially of detail and emphasis.

We are agreed that the Bologna process has had very positive effects since the declaration was adopted in 1999. My right honourable friend the Minister for Universities and Science, at the latest Bologna ministerial meeting in April, agreed to focus on three main goals in the face of the economic crisis: to provide quality higher education to more students, better equip students with employable skills and increase student mobility. The national mobility strategy required is currently being worked on by the sector, under the capable chairmanship of Professor Riordan, and the Government look forward to seeing it. We have had a number of references to that report from noble Lords.

The committee was concerned about recognition of our one-year master’s degrees, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, brought this up. The Government continue to press, bilaterally where necessary, to ensure that the recognition that should be accorded under the Bologna process is given. Recent figures suggest that this problem is diminishing and the number of institutions offering one-year master’s courses is increasing, suggesting confidence in these degrees.

The committee noted that use of the European credit transfer system and the diploma supplement is mandatory in Scotland and considered it would be of benefit throughout the UK. We rightly prize the autonomy of our universities and this would be a decision for them. The Bologna process implementation report prepared for the ministerial conference shows that the rest of the UK has one of the best performances in Europe for implementing the Bologna tools. UUK figures show that use of the ECTS and the diploma supplement have increased significantly since 2009. As my noble friend Lady Sharp set out, there are difficulties for HEIs in this country accepting credits from other institutions, especially, but not only, within the Russell group.

The committee noted that the HE sector is global in character and saw value in the production of a strategy in this area. The European Commission will issue a communication on internationalisation of HE in 2013. The Government will examine it carefully, and agree with the committee that it must justify any new EU actions as adding value, and avoid duplicating what member states, and universities themselves, are already doing.

In this context the committee notes that there is increased competition from continental universities, and although it is too early to say what the effect of the new fee regime in England will be, the Government will continue actively to promote the strength of our HE sector to students. Several noble Lords have referred to the fact that continental universities are now offering degrees through the medium of English, so the language component has been taken away from those non-foreign-language-speaking students who want to study there. I assure the House that we encourage and prize the world-class reputation that our universities enjoy. Our reforms to higher education funding in England are progressive, with no eligible student paying upfront, with more affordable repayments and more financial support for students from lower income households. I refute the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, that fees will impact on cash-strapped students and parents. As we all know, repayments do not start until students become graduates and are earning at least £21,000 a year.

The committee rightly stresses the need to foster collaboration between universities and businesses to contribute to our future prosperity and the added value that various EU initiatives can give. In particular, the European Institute for Innovation and Technology and its knowledge and innovation communities have the potential to foster such collaboration. The Government will look closely at how existing KICs are doing that during the remainder of the present programme. For the new European innovation partnerships, it is very early to judge, but we will follow developments closely to optimise future performance. I note the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about innovation and technology.

The committee welcomes the Commission’s proposal for a new integrated education programme, Erasmus for All. The Government agree, and my right honourable friend Mr David Willetts was pleased to support the partial general approach to the programme at the Education Council last May. We will do all we can to ensure that, as the proposal proceeds through the legislative process, the gains agreed are maintained.

Of course, as we are all aware, our aspirations in this field, as in many others, run up against the very difficult financial climate. The report wisely notes that any increases will be possible only in an EU budget in which reductions are made in other areas and overall restraint is achieved. The proposed Erasmus for All programme, integrating as it does the existing education and youth programmes with the new sport programme, is a good example of the sort of simplification and streamlining needed.

We agree with the committee on the importance of encouraging student mobility. To do so, the key questions are the language ability of our students, as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, set out, and financial provision for mobility. On the latter, since the report was written, my right honourable friend Mr David Willetts has announced new arrangements to replace the Erasmus fee waiver in England. They allow English HE institutions to charge students who take year-abroad placements a tuition fee up to 15% of their maximum fee cap; give students access to a tuition fee loan to cover those costs; and provide a HEFCE grant to support institutions participating in overseas student programmes. For the first time, that support will extend to students from English institutions taking year-abroad placements outside the Erasmus scheme.

On languages, the report criticises our monoglot culture and the risk of complacency due to the increasing spread of English. The Government agree. That is why my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education has included languages in the English baccalaureate; the new national curriculum will for the first time make a foreign language compulsory at key stage 2; and his department is funding the CfBT Education Trust to raise standards of language teaching. Several noble Lords have raised concerns about the requisite number of qualified language teachers to meet those new demands. Work is under way to identify teachers to recruit and to encourage more people to come back into the profession to encourage language teaching.

Research published in March this year showed that 51% of state secondary schools have more than half their pupils taking a language in year 10, up from 36% when the previous Government left office—an increase probably helped by the language component in the English baccalaureate. Proposals for the English baccalaureate certificate include making a modern language compulsory at key stage 4. We would certainly hope that that would also become part of the national curriculum. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills classifies languages as strategically important and vulnerable subjects, which it has asked HEFCE to support; more than £14 million will be allocated to maintain capacity in SIVS this academic year. We are pleased to note the committee’s endorsement of the proposed revision of the professional qualifications directive. The proposed directive includes references to ECTS credits as evidence for minimum training requirements for seven professions. The Government support this approach and are seeking to ensure flexibility for both professionals and their regulators. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said more on this and I will say a little more in a moment.

I will come on to some of the comments made in this debate, which has been wide-ranging. I apologise if I am not able to cover all of the points raised but I will of course write to noble Lords on those which I am not able to cover this evening. Further to mobility, the British Council, which delivers the Erasmus programme in the UK under contract to the Government, introduced a supplementary grant of €500 in 2011-12 for Erasmus students who are eligible for HE widening participation assistance in the UK. It is too early at the moment to tell how that has affected the take-up from these groups but we hope it will certainly help to widen both the diverse range of students and participation. Both the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, mentioned widening participation and reaching out to those groups.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred to the multiannual financial framework. It is vital that the next MFF is geared to fostering growth and competitiveness. Since those are underpinned by research and innovation, the Government agree that this area should account for a larger proportion of an EU budget that will increase by, at most, inflation in 2014 to 2020. The importance of R and D has been brought out again in a number of speeches this evening.

My noble friend Lord Bridgeman and the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, also mentioned outward mobility. BIS has tasked the higher education sector to consider outward HE student mobility generally, including the measures necessary to support the growth of UK participation in the Erasmus programme, and ensure that students from all backgrounds have the opportunity to take part. Again, it was raised in this debate how the numbers coming into this country are far greater than the number of our own students wishing to study overseas. Raising awareness of international experience in schools, as my noble friend Lord Bridgeman said, is an important aspect of this. I will get back to him on whether this is needed on the UCAS application form. I would certainly have thought that any personal statement would benefit from having a comment about international experience, because we know that is valued by employers and universities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked a number of questions. I will do my best to tackle some of them. She asked what was going to happen about EU students defaulting on student loans. The reply is that we are working closely with other member states and the European Commission to establish a means of strengthening ways of pursuing repayment. However, there has not been a major problem with other forms of loans to EU students. We are hoping that it will not present a great problem. It is a matter, of course, of working with other countries.

On the review of the directive and the recognition of professional qualifications, which the noble Baroness mentioned particularly in the medical field, we hope that that directive will help young graduates not to have to start again or to study for more years than is necessary to prove their professional competence. We shall obviously have to work with that directive as it develops to make sure that that is happening. I think that I have already mentioned the one-year master’s degrees, but on the professional directive we would like to ensure that the levels of education outlined are aligned with Bologna cycles, so that the training courses towards regulated professions do not aim for two differing benchmark levels. I would not underestimate the difficulties of trying to ensure that, throughout different countries, we have benchmarks measuring the same things across this range of professions.

On the master’s-level student loan guarantee facility, which my noble friend Lady Sharp mentioned, we agree with the committee that the loan guarantee proposal needs to be explored further and could potentially help UK graduate students, but once again we will need to monitor how this goes along to make sure that it is entirely effective.

A number of noble Lords mentioned universities doing as much as they can to enforce the teaching of modern languages. My noble friend Lady Sharp mentioned the University of Sussex, where languages were encouraged. The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, mentioned UCL, which has insisted on a modern language module for all incoming students and, if they do not have a GCSE, UCL is providing courses to enable them to gain one. There are examples of other universities doing similar things. Aston, for instance, has a programme where all first-year students will be studying a modern language. There are a number of very innovative programmes within universities to try to ensure that languages are encouraged across the range of subject areas. I think that the noble Lords, Lord Judd and Lord Parekh, mentioned the importance of linkages across subject areas, not just for linguists but in science, engineering, technology, the arts, law, medicine and so on.

The noble Lord, Lord Giddens, also mentioned the barriers to research and academic careers for UK citizens, and the European Commission recognises that there are barriers for researchers and academics and is working with member states to tackle those barriers to develop the European research area to ensure that there is more openness and exchange within those areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, raised the matter of visas, as did the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria, Lord Judd and Lord Stevenson. This has been a vexed question. I am destined to disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Hannay; I am sure that I will not fill the lacuna to his satisfaction regarding the areas that he raised. There are hopeful signs regarding the Government’s interest in fostering internationalism; for instance, just recently the Government announced that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office language facility would be funded with £1 million following the closure of the college in 2007, so there is an upturn on that front.

I assure noble Lords that the UK is most definitely open for business to international students. Genuine students who have the greatest contribution to make to the UK will continue to be welcomed. The aim as always is to get the balance right between providing a user-friendly route for bona fide students and education providers and deterring those who would seek to abuse the system. I share noble Lords’ concerns that we certainly seem to have got publicity rather skewed against that in recent times. We are working very hard to try to redress that position and to encourage overseas students to come. Conversations continue with the Home Office and UKBA and the student visa people to try to ensure that we encourage students to come here. As the noble Lord, Lord Judd, pointed out, it is not just a matter of economic benefit to the UK from students; it is also the matter of international relations, the fostering of friendships across different cultures and countries, which is of such vital importance today.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, commented that he was not impressed by the trend of universities to issue statements of all-round achievement alongside the academic record and guides. We understand from employers that they are interested in other characteristics of graduates as well as their academic grades, and many UK universities have adopted the higher education achievement report, which provides a much deeper record than the standard academic report. The Government encourage that development.

The noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, commented on the importance of linguists generally and concerns about the shortage of interpreters and the impact that that has. I commend the work in this respect of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, to which I spoke last week, which performs a vital role in trying to ensure that standards are maintained in all branches of linguistics.

I have given the assurance on key stage 4. That is going to continue. The noble Baroness’s idea that there should be a cross-cutting Minister covering languages in all departments is an interesting one. I will need to get back to her on that; it might not be wise for me to make a policy decision at the Dispatch Box this evening.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, commented on the benefits of EU research collaboration and research mobility, and we would certainly agree that that is of enormous benefit. We are working with the European Commission and other EU partners to increase such collaboration where appropriate through the European research area initiative. The noble Lord, Lord Parekh, talked about joint and double degrees, as did the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, with a mixture of different universities delivering together. These already exist, with the development of joint programmes supported through the EU education programmes, and are strongly encouraged in the Bologna process, but it is indicative of the fact that they are worthy of more support than they have at the moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, reminded us that India was closing down its universities long before Oxford and Cambridge were even thinking of opening. I also mention that there are BIS-funded projects for sending students to India and China to find out more about those cultures. They are very popular. Applications are way in excess of the number who can go. On the financial arrangements available to EU students, they are eligible for loans but not for maintenance grants.

I will have to write to the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, on the detail of the U-Multirank. The Government concur with the report’s finding and with the concerns that she raised. It is important that there is clear information and guidance for students on higher education institutions, but there are concerns about the usefulness of university league tables and rankings systems. The noble Baroness pointed out some of the difficulties of rankings systems for universities. There are also possible concerns about the cost. The Commission is running a trial scheme with a limited number of countries on this, and we will possibly wait until that trial is reported. I shall try to find out about the costs for the noble Baroness. I do not know them at the moment.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, mentioned the multinationalism of universities and that social science is as important as physical sciences. I think we all agree that the revival of intellectualism and the ability to think our way out of problems are of key importance in the times in which we live.

I am conscious that I have not covered all the points that have been raised in the depth that I would like. I will read Hansard and try to come back to noble Lords on the points that have not been covered today. I commend the influential reports of the EU Committee, which are very welcome. Once again, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, the members of the committee and all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. We have had productive and incisive contributions that will help to shape government policy in a field that is not only crucial to our economic future but helps to promote good international relations and opens opportunities for students of all ages.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who took part in today’s debate. I, too, am conscious of the time and that everybody has been very diligent in listening to all the analysis and critiques that we have heard this afternoon. It makes me sad that I no longer have any responsibility for this subject directly within the EU Select Committee structure but I will, no doubt, be working with my noble friend Lord Hannay, who I wish well in his work, in following up on this debate and on the report, as is customary.

I shall make a couple of very quick points in shorthand. We recognise, but were not able to put fully into the report, how complex student mobility is. It is not just about finance; it is about economics and social and cultural factors and the rich interplay of all those different factors in presenting barriers to many of our students going to study in Europe.

I shall say no more on U-Multirank, except that in a sense I understand that the impulse to develop something less oriented towards particular kinds of institutions was not necessarily a bad idea, but how that is to play out is to be seen.

Our remit and title were determined by the communication from the European Commission, so although there might be problems around the use of the term “modernisation”, it is not necessarily of our doing and I distance us slightly from that.

On language competence, I shall say only that it is not merely about the language and linguistics; it is also about culture. Even if everybody in the world were able to speak English as well as other languages, we would be impoverished if we could not communicate in languages other than our own native tongue.

I thank the Minister for her thoughtful reply. I shall not address those areas where we might still be in disagreement. Like her, I shall be looking at Hansard and thinking through what some of those responses mean.

To conclude, I thank hugely the members of Sub-Committee G who I worked with. In particular, for today, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, who was so supportive on that committee. I am really glad that he is able to follow that through on the committee of my noble friend Lord Hannay. I, too, give due credit to Michael Torrance, Alistair Dillon and Mandeep Lally, who were admirable support for Sub-Committee G.

The debate has been stimulating and wide-ranging. The one thing we all agree on is that higher education has a huge role to play, one way or another, in trying to get us out of this ongoing crisis in which we find ourselves, which is not only to do with the financial crisis—although that is obviously at the forefront—but also our environmental crisis, and social and cultural issues, too.

I thank everybody for their participation.

Motion agreed.

House adjourned at 7.10 pm.