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Higher Education

Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 18 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what action he is taking to ensure universities and colleges are collaborating effectively with schools in order to cultivate among disadvantaged children the aspiration to enter higher education. [112997]

The Aimhigher programme supports a wide range of activity involving collaborative working between schools, colleges and higher education institutions in order to increase the educational attainment and aspirations of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Activities can include university tasters such as summer schools, mentoring, support for teachers, master classes and many more. Much of the activity is aimed at getting year 11 pupils to stay on in education and get better grades so that they can aim higher. The Aimhigher publicity campaign provides clearer information and better marketing of the route to HE for young people with a particular focus on reaching families and communities who do not have a tradition of entering HE, raising expectations of students and teachers alike. Any university wishing to introduce higher fees from 2006 must first have an access agreement, approved by the Office for Fair Access, and outreach with schools and colleges will be one of the essential elements of such an agreement.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what steps he is taking to increase awareness of further and higher education opportunities amongst under-represented groups. [118147]

The Government are committed to widening participation in Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE). In FE, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has a clear remit to raise and widen participation in education and training. The LSC's "Successful Participation for All: Widening Adult Participation Strategy" was launched for consultation in February of this year. The LSC will publish its resultant Widening Participation Strategy in the autumn. This is likely to consider widening participation targets, funding and prospects for future growth in FE and training.Our plans for HE are set out in "The Future of Higher Education" (Cm 5735) with more detail given in "Widening Participation in Higher Education" (DfES/0301/2003). The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published its plans in March in "Funding for Widening Participation in England". HEFCE is spending £285 million on widening participation in 2003–04. In addition, the DfES's Aimhigher Programme is aimed at raising levels of awareness and aspiration towards HE of young people in more disadvantaged parts of the country. We are spending £62 million in 2003–04 on this Programme.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what additional financial assistance he intends to give to universities to enable them to provide (a) outreach work with schools and colleges and (b) bursaries and other financial support as described in Widening Participation in Higher Education. [118393]

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) intends to make available £285 million in 2003–04 for widening participation activities. This compares with £55 million last year. In addition, the Department is also providing £62 million in 2003–04 for widening participation to partnerships of schools, colleges and universities through Aimhigher, compared to £35 million in 2002–03. A further £5 million is being made available in 2003–04 for the Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth based at the University of Warwick, and £2.5 million is available to support development of foundation degrees.With respect to bursaries for young people, are expanding Opportunity Bursaries so that grants to the sum of £18.5 million will be available in 2003–04, compared to £11.5 million last year. The level of hardship funding is likely to be around the same in 2003–4 at £96 million.In addition, from September 2003, a new Parents Learning Allowance will be paid directly to student parents on low income. From September 2004, a new Higher Education Grant of £1,000 per year will be paid directly to poorer students. Details of eligibility to this grant will be published in due course. The Department is also planning to make available assistance to students studying Foundation Degrees. Details will be announced later in the year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what estimate he has made of the amount spent in 2002–03 by universities on (a) outreach work with schools and colleges to help raise the level of attainment, aspirations and applications and (b) bursaries and other financial support. [118394]

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) allocated to universities and colleges a total of £55 million for the financial year 2002–03 for outreach work. A further £35 million was spent by Excellence Challenge partnerships which comprise schools, colleges and higher education institutions. £96m was made available for higher education institutions to use to provide bursaries and other financial support for students. The Department has no information on the additional amounts spent by institutions from their own funds.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills to what extent his decisions on the charging of tuition fees by universities will be determined by his assessment of their admission arrangements under the proposals set out in Widening Participation in Higher Education. [118395]

Under the proposals in "Widening participation in higher education", institutions that wish to charge variable fees in excess of the standard fee (currently £1,100) for any of their courses will be required to enter into an access agreement with Office for Fair Access (OFFA). The agreement will cover a 5-year period, though there will be some flexibility for the institution to modify its arrangements during that period. An individual university's admissions policies and procedures will be outside the remit of the access agreement and OFFA.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to create teaching-only universities; and if he will make a statement on (a) the value of combined teaching and research departments and (b) how this link will be preserved. [119620]

As set out in the White Paper "The Future of Higher Education" (Cmnd 5735), the Government's vision for higher education is one in which each institution plays to its individual strengths. We expect all universities to excel in teaching but also have strengths in one or more of the following areas: research; knowledge transfer; and linkages with the local and regional economy.In order to acknowledge that teaching is, in itself, a core mission for a university we propose to change the criteria for university title so that it is awarded on the basis of taught degree awarding powers, up to masters level, and student numbers.Evidence available to the Department suggests that effective teaching requires academic staff to engage in high quality scholarship rather than undertaking research activity themselves. For that reason, new requirements about scholarship have been included in the proposed revised criteria for degree awarding powers and university title.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what plans he has to attract prospective entrants into the higher education profession; and what measures are in place to address staff shortages. [119623]

While the recruitment of staff is the responsibility of higher education institutions, the Government is concerned that higher education institutions should be able to recruit, retain and reward the high quality staff they need. That is why we announced in the White Paper that spending on higher education in England will rise from a total of £7.5 billion in 2002–03 to almost £10 billion in 2005–06. In the 3 years between 2001–02 and 2003–04, we have allocated £330 million specifically to help with the recruitment, retention and reward of all staff and, in particular, to value and reward good teachers. We have also pledged £50 million in 2004–05 and £117 million in 2005–06 for this purpose. From August 2003, we will be introducing "golden hellos" for 1,000 new lecturers in shortage subjects each year.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will make a statement on the number and outcome of regional consultation workshops held in connection with the White Paper on the Future of Higher Education (Cm 5735); and what further consultation exercises are planned. [119789]

We held 8 regional consultation events in connection with the White Paper during April and May 2003, attended by around 800 delegates from all interested parties in the higher education sector.We intend to present the outcomes from these and the written consultation exercise, at the same time as we respond to the Report of the Select Committee for Higher Education. A number of consultation exercises will be undertaken by the Department and the Higher Education Funding Council for England in the coming months on specific areas of policy related to implementing the commitments made in the White Paper.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what assessment he has made of the additional resources required in each year between 2003 and 2010 in order to meet the Government's 50 per cent.participation target, broken down to show (a) the increase in the direct grant to universities and (b) additional funding to improve recruitment and retention. [119959]

[hulling answer 17 June 2003]: The funding for higher education to 2005–06 was set out in "The Future of higher education" Cmd 5735, and in the annual grant letter to the Higher Education Funding Council for England. Assessments of the costs for increasing and widening participation beyond 2005–06 will be made as part of the 2004 Spending Review, work on which will commence shortly.