On 5th April, a vote took place on a Regret Motion tabled by Labour’s Lord Stevenson of Balmacara to two Regulations changing student loan terms and amounts. The Bishop of Peterborough took part.
On the 25th January 2017, the Bishop of Durham, Rt. Revd. Paul Butler, co-sponsored an amendment to the Higher Education and Research Bill, which would ‘allow all refugees resettled to the UK…to access student finance and home fees.’ The amendment was led by Lord Dubs and Viscount Younger of Leckie responded on behalf of the Government. The amendment was withdrawn after debate.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is my privilege to have added my name to this amendment. My favourite Christmas card of the past year came from a refugee from Burundi. Last summer, when I visited Burundi, I accessed the rector of the university that she had had to flee and arranged for her qualifications from that university to be released and forwarded to her in this country so that she could commence university, which she will do in September this year. It was a huge relief to her because without that piece of paper she would have had to return and undertake A-levels. In her Christmas card she not only thanked me, but said that it was being able to access higher education straightaway that made her feel welcome and wanted, and that we believed in integrating her into our country.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock asked Her Majesty’s Government ‘what action they propose to take over the potential impact on university funding arising from lower than expected repayment of student loans?’ The Bishop of Chester asked a supplementary question:
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I share the Government’s view that the higher education sector is in remarkably good health given the recession. However, does not setting fees at £9,000, which is far higher than fees in any other European country, imply a loans system that has its own element of generosity, including a repayment starting point of £21,000, rather than the original £16,000?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The right reverend Prelate raises an important point. I am sure he is aware that the Government have ensured that those universities that have chosen to raise their fees to the £9,000 limit have suitable access agreements so that those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds are given the opportunity to go to university. The Government’s policy remains that access to a university education should be based not on someone’s ability to pay but on their ability.