06/03/2017 House of Lords


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That is the end of the day in the House of Commons. We will now be


going over live to the House of Lords. You can watch recorded


coverage of all of today's business in the House of Lords after the


daily politics later tonight. My lords, this amendment is by way of a


probing amendment, really just to clarify the situation which has


arisen which concerns pretty specifically and possibly uniquely


the Guildhall School of music and drama. The Guildhall School is a


very unusual institution. Partly because of its history and partly


because of its ownership. It is an unincorporated body. It does not


have a legal structure, which is common amongst higher education


colleges. It was set up 137 years ago in 1880 by the city of the


corporation as a conservator, and has never changed its corporate


structure since those days. It is owned by the City of London


Corporation. It's caught of governors is appointed by the city


of the corporation. And indeed something close to one third of its


funding comes from the city of Corporation. It is indeed an


integral part of the whole structure of the city of, in the same way in


deed that the Hamstead Heath and Epping Forest and so on are all run


as well, as are various other schools. This gives the problem


under the higher education research bill that it is a body that doesn't


really fit into the definitions of what the white paper was trying to


create, because the Government's white paper, which informs this bill


obviously, indicates the Government 's principles for which the office


for students under the powers confirmed under this clause would be


comparable to those currently required by the AGF CE funded


providers in line with the engine code of governors. There is every


reason to assume that the governors' principles and visit by clause 15,


which the students will be developing, will be applicable to


the Guildhall with equal success. This clause however instead uses


statutory backing for the principles, and the concern is that


in moving to this more formalised position, some of the flexibility


which currently exists will be lost, and the ability then to take account


of the possibly unique governance structure of the Guildhall School of


music will no longer be applicable. This amendment is really to try and


flush out whether it is possible to have sufficient flexibility under


the new structure to enable the Guildhall School of music to


continue in the way that it has in the past, in other words to be an


integral part of the Corporation of London. And that is really what this


is trying to work out, as to whether things can go on as they are at the


moment, or whether things indeed have to change for the Guildhall


School of music with possibly unfortunate consequences. And on


that basis, I beg to move. Page nine by 19.


My lords, I am grateful to my noble friend who not the first time has


raised in your lordship's house concern about the City of London


Police operation. Clause 15 enables the OFS to take over the


responsibility of scrutinising providers' governing documents


against the interest of principles. I would like to reassure my noble


friend that we do not anticipate any impact on current higher education


institutions being recognised by the OFS as higher education providers in


the future. The intended practical application of the current and


future list is to ensure best practice within already existing and


recognised higher education providers governing documents, and


it is not the intention of these principles to provide documents. The


OFS must consult on new principles with the requirement that there


should be a principle protecting academic freedom for staff, which


I'm sure the Guildhall has no difficulty with. The Bill does not


prescribe what should be included in that list, so I say to my noble


friend that there is nothing in clause 15 that should concern the


Guildhall School of music, and it should continue to do the valuable


work it has been doing for so long, and against that grand of assurance,


I hope my honourable friend might be able to withdraw his reassurance. I


am grateful to my friend for that because that is precisely what the


Guildhall School of music is looking for, some kind of guidance as to


what will occur as this bill becomes apparent, and so I beg leave to


withdraw my amendment. My lords, I return with this amendment to top --


topic that was raised at committee in some detail in relation to what


might happen in a hypothetical situation where I higher education


provider is in breach of an ongoing registration condition relating to


the quality of the education it is providing or it ability to implement


a student production plan. The Bill is good on these issues, and it is


important that we should have measures of this type in statute.


But the question that arose during the earlier debate, and which arises


still, because the satisfactory answer was not in my view entirely


satisfactory is that the only penalty that is specified in the


Bill is a financial penalty, in other words in breach of the


registration conditions in the terms I have just outlined, an institution


would face itself with a fine, which is not specified which can be quite


substantial in relation to activities. The point was made


during the debate in committee that there may be other sanctions


available, and the question is why are these not also in the Bill,


because it would surely be helpful to the OFS have a range of possible


opportunities to get redress from institutions. And in particular, not


necessarily go down a financial route which might of course have the


ultimately situation which would not be very satisfactory in terms of the


requirement of the Bill to reduce the amount of money that was


available to spend on teaching students, so the question was, and


specified in the amendment, whether it wouldn't be better to have a


numbers cap as well as a financial penalty in that area, and I beg to


move. The proposal of the new clause which is printed on the list. Within


this part of the Bill concerning registration conditions, so far it


appears there is nothing much about restricting enrolment. Clause 16


enables monetary penalties, while in various other respects, clauses


17-22 inclusive allow for penalties if and when desirable. But


subsequent to the central matter, which is enrolment in the first


place, in this context, by contrast, it appears erroneous that in certain


circumstances a useful scope for the restriction should so far not have


been addressed at all. However, with this proposed new clause, the noble


lord Lord Stevenson had a timely and was worthy of support.


I would like to rise and support the proposition. When we discussed it in


committee, the Minister did say that he saw no reason why there should


not be a wider range of penalties at the disposal of the office for


students. It would be very helpful to have that, I think, confirmed in


the Bill, because otherwise it seems to me that there is a possibility of


challenge, of the OFS exceeding its powers, if it moved to restrict the


number of students in a way that would seem on many occasions


entirely appropriate. My lords, the noble baroness lady Woolf expressed


concern steering committee that the OFS would not have appropriate


powers to restrict student enrolment at a register higher education


provider in the event of a breach of registration conditions, and I


listened very carefully to her short speech just now. Lady garden and


Lord Watson also spoke at the committee. This is a concern that


the OFS would not have appropriate powers to restrict student enrolment


at a registered provider in event of a breach of enrolment conditions,


and will instead have to either impose monetary penalty or


deregister the provider, both of which would have a negative impact


on the Enron students. It is our intention that such sanctions would


only be opposed in exceptional circumstances. The OFS would operate


a risk-based system whereby any regulatory action is to be


proportionate to the original issue. There are a range of measures such


as agreeing a support strategy with the provider or directing that


certain actions should be taken through to imposing specific ongoing


registration conditions. And finally to sanctions. The imposition of a


student number control is precisely the sort of regulatory reaction that


can already be used under the powers in clause seven, which allows the


OFS impose specific ongoing conditions. Imposing a student


number control would not be to the detriment of students already


studying with the provider, and would help to ensure that new


students that were subsequently enrolled would enjoy high-quality


suitably resourced teaching and learning. It is clearly not our


intention that the OFS deregister is to Jewish and impose monetary -- it


is not our intention that the OFS regulator is to impose monetary


sanctions. The OFS could impose student number controls, but we


believe it is unnecessary, as the Bill already provides the OFS with


the Bill necessary to limit student numbers where appropriate, so


without explanation, I ask the noble lord to withdraw his amendment. I am


very grateful to the noble lord of the contributing to this debate. It


is a point I hadn't spotted myself, and there is a mismatch here in


terms of how Institute will be treated. Again, he hasn't quite gone


as far as would-be obviously the right thing to do. He made the


argument is rather better than I did, but then held back at the last


minute, so I might encourage to go a little further and the opinion. Any


who are content, say content. Not content, not content.


The question is and 50 for being greedy. So content. Not content. Not


content go to the left by the bar. The question is that


amendment 54 be agreed to. My Lords, they have voted. Contents


45, not contents 140, therefore the not contents have it.


Amendment 55, Lord Stevenson of Palma Cara. My lords, we come to


group 13 and Amendment 50 56, 57, all of which concern protection for


students. We are to some extent returning with an issue touched on


committee, although the specifics vary somewhat. My lords, we have


heard often enough that any institution going bust, driving


itself into the sand would be a very rare occurrence, and of course we


are going to believe that, we desperately hope that is the case.


But it could happen, and at some stage it is pretty much certain that


it will happen. And when it does happen, the people that have to be


the main concern of every one of the students, those men and women who


have taken out a student loan to study at the institution have


identified that is the place they want to be, have commenced their


studies, in many cases very nearly completed their studies. And the


three amendments therefore deal with various scenarios that students


might face in the case of grave difficulty of the institution


perhaps folding completely. Amendment 55 states that when the


officers of students are suspended all registered, higher education


provides registration, various provisions have to be made as to


what the motives of suspension must promote. There are several appearing


under subparagraph six. None of them mentioned what happened to existing


students during the suspension period. The purpose of Amendment 55


is to put that right, and as the noble Viscount Minister has


mentioned on several occasions, and specifically in relation to


amendment earlier today about the proposal to change the name of the


office of students, the reason that was not possible he said was that


students are right at the centre of this legislation. We want that to be


very clear. Well, if that is to be as clear as that it must surely be


accommodated within that particular clause to which I referred.


Amendment 56 goes on to talk about ensuring that students if an


institution becomes deregistered are fully notified as to when it


happens. This was covered in committee. It seems to me to be self


evident that that should take place. I cannot conceive of any notion as


to why that would not be the case, and also for them to be told when


the expiry of the access and participation plan will occur. In


many ways I think the most important of these three is Amendment 50


seven. That's about ensuring where a further education provider ceases to


be a wood to provide courses for its students, the office for students


must seek to place their students on similar courses at another provider.


And, as I said, if the government is, as I believe they are, committed


to having students at the centre of the legislation, why should students


be left to suffer through no fault of their own when a higher education


provider is no longer able to deliver the service to which those


students signed up? They will be left quite probably if


they cannot be found another course out of pocket over fees, because of


course fees still have to be repaid, sorry, loans have to be repaid. We


believe that the office for students has a due to to assist them in every


way possible to insure they can assist them in their studies -- has


a Judi to assist them. Overall these three amendments are about


protecting students, which cause to which everyone would be happy to


subscribe. Amendment proposed. I rise briefly to support Amendment 50


seven. That earlier stages in the bill have welcomed the provisions of


clause 13, which provides that the office for students can generate


student protection plans, and I think that is to be welcomed. The


problem as the noble Lord has indicated, we don't know what form


that protection will take and I think there needs to be more on the


face of the bill. I moved an amendment at committee stage to try


to address this, but the government were not at that stage receptor. So


I think we really do need to come back to this, as the noble Lord has


said, it is the office for students. Students are meant to be at the


heart of this measure, and yet students are not good to have any


idea what protection they have when they undertake a course of study.


Clause 13 does refer as an example to a course failing to be provided


when it comes to protection, so what precisely is the protection being


accorded to students? I think they need that reassurance if they are


actually to pursue these causes to sign up for them in the first place,


so then I think amendment 57 gets out this particular problem, and I


welcome the fact that we are again considering it. I think student


Chumak deserve to have some idea what type of protection there will


be for them when they undertake a course of study. . I support the


amendments to which I have put my name, and everything that the low


balls Lords have said so far. When the higher education Bill was first


introduced, the Minister, both Ministers, pointed out that the


environment in which higher education takes place has changed


dramatically in recent years, and indeed it has so students now, very


large numbers, take out large loans, and they do so in the belief and


confidence that the institutions that they attend have been in some


sense guaranteed by government that they are doing something which they


are safe in doing, that they will be able to complete their studies. Now


that is fortunately in most cases true, but of course it isn't always


necessarily true, and anybody who looks at experience in other


countries will realise that institutions do fail, and indeed


some are non-degree awarding institutions that have failed in the


past. And indeed the competition markets authority says cheerfully on


its website that the sign of a healthy sector is that you have some


exit. Exit sounds quite cool, really, unless you happen to be one


of the students in an exiting institution. The technical education


Bill is also going through, and since I attend both, part of the


time I whinge, but mostly it is a very informative exercise, because


of course we do now have a tertiary sector as much as anything else. And


the protections that are being introduced for students in further


education colleges go well beyond anything that has been specified for


students in higher education, and I think that is highly regrettable. I


think that it is really important that in this new and changed


environment, we realise that students need new and changed


protection. And just to give an example, in the training sector, we


have for a long time had very many quite small and sometimes quite


large rapidly changing institutions, and just before these bills were


introduced to the House, we had the first story of a training provider


who went into liquidation, leaving many, many people with outstanding


loans and no obvious recalls. In the few weeks since both bills have


started to work their way through, we have had two other such failures,


and I will be happy to let anybody know who is curious about their


names, but once again, what you are left with is in this case adult


learners who have loans and who have no ongoing course. And when I raised


this with officials, I was told that the risks were less bad for


university students because they were more mobile, less local. But


that really isn't true. If you talk to many of our university


institutions, you will find that actually, this is not true of my


own, but it is true of many institutions, they have home


students who are almost all highly local, often because they come from


less advantaged families and are very unhappy about taking out major


loans, so they are very local, and if the institution fails, they don't


have anywhere else to go. So I would hope very much that Ministers would


feel able ideally to accept particularly I would agree amendment


57, which would seem to me to be the least we can do in an environment


where we are in effect making a promise to students. If it turns out


that they can't be kept, they ought to be looked after. Your Lordships


have heard me speak in this context as Chancellor of the University of


Birmingham and chair of the advisory board of the Cambridge arch business


school, but years ago when I was qualifying as a chartered accountant


at the Institute of chartered accountants in any unknown Wales, I


spent a year at what is now London Metropolitan University, and I want


to draw an analogy here. In 2012, London Metropolitan University where


I have been a visiting professor as well, they lost their right to


recruit international students. My lords, there were 2700 students at


that time with valid visas who had come in good faith, international


students, and they were given 60 days to find a place at another


institution. This was not only jeopardising their lives, their


futures, but it also put an institution with 30,000 students and


2000 staff at jeopardy and in crisis. The implications of


something like this is not only to that institution but in the context


of international students and international student affairs,


today, universities UK have released their report on international


students, showing that there are nearly 450,000 international


students in the UK, of which 130,000 are from the European Union. And the


contribution that they make to Britain in gross terms is ?25


billion is what they spend directly and indirectly in our economy, and


with Brexit coming up, the uncertainty of international


students let alone Huw students is already there. If they have the


added uncertainty that if they join an institution but if that


institution fails, they are left high and dry, I don't think that is


right, I think that is affecting our economy and our ability to recruit


international students. As it is we have immigration rules that are


against international students, which we will talk about later on at


this report stage. So I would urge the Government to take this very


seriously, because it is our domestic students, giving them


security, and also for our international students and our


reputation around the world. I wasn't intending to speak on this


issue. I just think it is really important that if any of us had


children who we sent off to higher education, we would expect that that


higher education institution would give them the support that they


need. And there are of course private colleges which have their


courses validated by individual universities, and of course those


private colleges code under certain circumstances get into difficulties,


and then ceased trading. What happens to the student? What happens


to the student loan? What happens to those circumstances? As Baroness


Wulf rightly says, we are already seeing this in further education,


where training providers are going into liquidation. They are all


right, they have gone into liquidation, but the poor student is


left high and dry, so I hope when the Minister replies they might give


assurances into this particular issue. My lords, I am grateful to


all noble Lords who have spoken on this debate, which has raised the


important issue of student protection in case of suspension of


registration or indeed deregistration, and I think there is


no disagreement that student protection is important, and that is


why in the Bill we have gone further than ever before by including an


express provision in the Bill enabling the OFS to ensure


appropriate protections for students through a key condition of provider


registration. The noble lord and others have made some help for


suggestions regarding the likely content of student protection plans


which we agree need to be robust and copper heads of in their coverage.


These plans are likely to include a diverse range of measures to protect


students as well as a diverse range of possible triggers for a student


protection plan, including suspension of registration. In


response to the concerns that have been expressed in this debate, I can


say that draft guidance will be prepared for consultation with the


sector and students as part of the regulatory framework consultation


later this year, and we would expect it to include information on how and


when a provider should refer students to student protection plan,


for example during suspension of registration, and it would be wrong


to pre-empt the consultation by including these measures in the Bill


itself. But could I seek to reassure noble Lords who have spoken in this


today that the measures that I have just referred to could include four


example provision to teach a course to the end for existing students,


offering students alternative courses at the same situation,


making arrangements for affected students to switch to a different


provider without having to start their course from scratch, and in


response to an issue raised by the noble lord Watson, measures to


compensate affected students financially. And I hope that those


examples provide some reassurance to noble Lords that we do have in mind


the contingency arrangements that they have outlined in this debate.


Clause 17 of the Bill places a clear duty on the OFS to notify through


its maintenance of the register when a provider has been suspended, and a


similar duty is imposed on the OFS in clauses 19 and 23 when providers


are deregistered. The OFS already has the power given in clause 72


require a provider's governing body to make sure that students are


informed about the action. However, widespread publicity of preliminary


plans measures may not always be appropriate in every case. Before


the OFS can impose a sanction of suspension and deregistration, it


must notify a provider of its intent to do so, unless an urgent


suspension is being imposed, and then allow the provider to argue its


case or put the matter right. As I'm sure noble Lords will agree, the


desired outcome for the benefit of students and the providers alike is


that the provider takes the actions necessary to ensure that they comply


with the conditions of registration that have been placed upon them, and


so no further action would then be required. There are also important


matters of confidentiality at play here. A key concern has previously


been raised. HE providers would not wish the OFS to announce that they


were carrying out an investigation into a provider, as this could lead


to unnecessary whippy day shall damage. If the OFS subsequently


decided not to take action. -- unnecessary reputational damage.


This would not in our view generally be helpful or appropriate to


students, and it is the inclusion of the words intention to that I find


difficulty with in Amendment 50 six. My lords, an Amendment 57, I have


listened to the thoughtful debate we have had this evening, and indeed I


have read the debates in the Other Place on the issue of student


transfer. We have tabled an amendment, number 100, on this


important issue, which we have already discussed. Our amendment


will acquire the OFS to monitor and report on student transfer


arrangements by the registered higher education providers, and it


will empower the OFS to facilitate, encourage or promote awareness of


these arrangements. In doing so, the Government is creating the


conditions to allow the necessary flexibility for students to make the


right choices for themselves, and to have control over those decisions


whatever the reason for their transfer. The amendment that is


proposed, which noble Lords have spoken to, would result in the OFS


trying to make arrangements for students to be placed on other


courses if their current course closed. However, the decision of


what courses to offer falls within the institutional autonomy of each


provider, and while I recognise the importance of students being able to


transfer, particularly where their institution ceases to offer their


planned learning, it is not and nor should it be the OFS's gift to


determine whether students and institutions accept students from


elsewhere. This has never been the role undertaken by the OFS's


predecessor, and there is no intention for it to be taken on by


the OFS, so it must surely be preferable for the sector to be in


control of transfer processes, including where appropriate as part


of the student protection plan, and for the OFS to play a greater role


in facilitating and encouraging the availability and take-up of such


arrangements. And in response to my noble friend Lord Norton who was


concerned that students want to know what protections they have, we have


listened to concerns on this issue, and that is why in the Other Place


we brought forward an amendment to require plans to be published, and


therefore brought to the students' attention, and so this balanced


approach is what our amendment sought to achieve, and against that


background, I would ask the noble Lords to withdraw Amendment 50 five.


He did give the impression of a man thrashing around in a deep pool


there, desperately trying to find something to cling onto and I have


to say I did not find his arguments convincing. I did say when I was


moving this group of amendments that it has been stated time and again


that the government wanted students at the centre of the whole of this


bill. I will quote it now, clause 18 said that when a decision is to


suspend the provider's registration the notice must specify the date on


which the suspension takes a fake, the effective purposes, the medial


conditions at any and maintain the grounds of the suspension, it does


not specify what happened to students during the suspension


period. Why not? How would hinder any institution if that was placed


on the face of the bill? It is surely the sort of thing that


students are entitled to know, when the institution is getting into


difficulty and I don't see why it should provide any difficulty at


all. I have to say I did enjoy the analogy drawn by the noble Baroness


with this bill and the technical and further education Bill, which is she


said, is about the insolvencies of further education colleges and for


the avoidance of any doubt, the minister in charge of the bill has


ensured noble Lords that will never happen either so we are to believe


that there is no greater chance of it happening in the further


education sector and yet three quarters of the bill is about


insolvency. It would have been helpful if the vehicle used for


dealing with insolvencies in the further education Bill, the special


education administrator, had some equivalent in this bill because it


will be the case that situations will arise where he or she, or that


kind of role is necessary and it cannot be carried out just by the


office for students. To some extent, without having that particular


person provided for in the bill, this section of it, in terms of


colleges, further education students getting into difficulty, there is no


such equivalent in higher education and we are left with a section of


the bill which is rather like Hamlet without the prince. No one will be


appointed by the court in this section and that is the difference


between this and the further education Bill. He talked about


draft guidance for consultations with staff and students on when a


student protection plan becomes effective but the amendments here


are not about pre-empting, we're talking about a situation after the


college has got into difficulties and it is about reacting to that,


not anticipating it. I think it is important that different is


understood. I have to say to the Minister that particularly in


relation to Amendment 57, which we certainly welcome support from both


the crossbenchers and government benches, we have made it easier for


the office for students because the wording says that the authors must


seek to make arrangements for the students about provider to be


offered places on a similar course with another higher education


provided. We could have omitted the word seek to. We had been helpful to


the government by only suggesting the OFS should seek to do that. I


take the point that some students would not like to be told by the


OFS, sorry, your University is closed, here is where you will go as


of next week. That is not the way I would envisage it happening, it


would be about choices. The noble Lord talk about student choices and


they should as far as possible be provided by the OFS. They have the


overall responsibility as the regulator and therefore they should


be able to say to students, you are without a class at the moment, this


is what we suggest. I acknowledge the point that the noble Baroness


said that there will be cases where colleges are very local and students


are not willing to travel to the next town or another part if it were


London to complete their studies and on that basis they might decide that


not completing the Saudis is possible but they should have


choices. I find it very surprising, and I come back to this, students


being at the centre of this bill and get the OFS is not to be allowed to


seek to provide options for them to continue studies. I think that is a


real failing of the government's commitment and I think we should be


asking what is the real commitment in the interests of students and


that should be the test. The test to which we should put it is to test


the opinion of the house. The question is that this and would be


agreeing to -- agreed to. I think the not contents. Be not contents


it. Amendment 50 six. Amendment 57, Lord


Stevenson not moved. On this amendment, and apologise for


previous confusion, I wish to test the opinion of the house. The


question is that this amendment be agreed to. I think the knot contents


habit. Clear the bar. -- with the knot


The question is that Amendment 57 Rugby agreed to. -- be agreed to.


The contents will go to the right by the throne, the not contents to the


left by the bar. The question is that amendment 57 be


agreed to. Contents 36, not contents 138, so


the not content to Mac have it. Amendments 58 and 59 moved formerly.


The question is that amendments 58 and 59 be approved on block. The


contents have it. Amendment 60, not moved. Amendment 61, not moved. I


beg to move that further consideration on report be now


adjourned. The question is that further consideration on report be


now adjourned. As many as are of that opinion say content. Contrary,


not contents. The contents have it. And I beg to move the House do now


adjourned. That the House do now adjourned.


My lords, I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name on the


order paper, and in doing so I declare my interest is chair of the


Leeds University Law schools advisory board. My lords, as the


legal profession in England and Wales and the bodies that regulate


it are independent from Government, we have not made any assessment


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