MPs plan grilling for Cable and 'Two Brains'

July 8, 2010

David Willetts, the Universities and science minister, and Vince Cable, the business secretary, are likely to face their first public grilling by MPs over their plans for the higher education sector later this month.

Adrian Bailey, the new Labour chair of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said that he wanted Mr Cable and Mr Willetts to appear before his panel ahead of Parliament's summer recess.

Mr Bailey said he was personally concerned about the issue of access for poor students in the light of swingeing public-sector cuts, increasing demand for university places and the prospect of higher tuition fees.

He indicated that he would want to scrutinise closely the impact of any rise in the fees cap following the independent review of higher education funding and student finance led by Lord Browne of Madingley, which is due to report in the autumn.

"Accessibility is an important issue, particularly at a time when unemployment is likely to rise," Mr Bailey told Times Higher Education.

"I have an uncomfortable feeling that it will be the students from poorer backgrounds who will be affected. If Lord Browne lifts the cap, then it may become more difficult to persuade more young people to go into higher education. There is a big issue about support mechanisms."

The MP for West Bromwich West also argued that it was vital for the coalition to continue the work of the previous government in concentrating investment on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects.

"Even in the medium to long term, if this country is to continue to compete it is absolutely essential," he said.

The BIS select committee comprises five Conservative and four Labour members, plus one Liberal Democrat representative.

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