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Higher Education

Volume 124: debated on Friday 18 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will announce his decisions on provision for polytechnics and colleges in 1987–88 and on the distribution of the advanced further education pool and voluntary sector quantum for 1988–89; and if he will make a statement.

I have today written to the chairman of the committee of the National Advisory Body for Public Sector Higher Education (NAB) in response to the committee's advice on the disposition of student numbers in polytechnics and colleges in 1988–89, and on the basis for distributing the advanced further education quantum of £781 million and the voluntary sector quantum of £56·7 million which I announced in the House on 3 November and the direct grant agricultural colleges quantum of £3·87 million. I have accepted that advice in full.

Following my announcement that the resources available for polytechnics and colleges in 1988–89 would be 9 per cent. up on the current year, NAB recommends that student access should be further expanded. The plans for 1988–89 provide for over 7,000 more places and an increase in recruitment of over 3 per cent. compared to the targets set in 1987–88. That is fully adequate to meet known demand. Within the total, the targets allow for further increases in enrolments in the priority areas of science, engineering, technology and design.

As in previous years, the greater parts of the advanced further education quantum and of the voluntary sector and direct grant agricultural colleges quantums are being allocated in relation to target student numbers. The allocations make allowance for the differential costs of provision between subjects. They supplement the level of funding per student in respect of those institutions where higher education exceeds a quarter of total provision. This is in recognition of the greater costs associated with a concentration of higher education.

The allocations announced today include just under £25 million for a range of selective initiatives in areas of high priority and institutions of recognised strength. This expenditure supports the following purposes:

—£1·91 million to meet the recurrent costs of the continuing participation by eight polytechnics in phase 2 of the engineering and technology programme;
—£9·81 million to fund applied research of relevance to industry;
—£1·05 million to support the launch of new courses in manufacturing systems engineering;
—£4·89 million to continue the funding of new courses in science and engineering, particularly conversion courses which will equip those with non-science backgrounds to enter advanced courses in the technologies, and for the development of new courses of teacher training in shortage subjects for nontraditional students;
—£2·27 million to provide for an increase in technicians in support of high technology courses;
—44·17 million to maintain the expansion of continuing education and professional updating (PICKUP);
—£560,000 to provide continuing support for research in the biotechnology field;
—4250,000 to support course development in selected centres of hotel and catering work.

£300,000 is also being allocated to support selective work in the voluntary colleges in the teacher training field and £50,000 is being allocated to the direct grant agricultural colleges to support PICKUP.

Letters are today being sent to local education authorities with copies for their institutions notifying them of my decisions. Copies of my letter to the NAB committee chairman, and of a note explaining the method by which the three quantums for 1987–88 are being distributed, together with full details of the allocations, have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.