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Student Finance: HE Sector

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 18 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what research he has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on the effects of the new funding arrangements for higher education, with particular reference to students’ personal finances. (115872)

The Department is commissioning a new Student Income and Expenditure Survey which will take place during the 2007/08 academic year. The study will provide an authoritative and objective report on the finances of HE students in England and Wales—their income, expenditure, levels of debt and experience of financial hardship. The last survey was carried out in 2004/05 and was designed to set a baseline against which changes following the 2004 Higher Education Act could be monitored.

On 8 January 2004, the Secretary of State announced that the Department would establish an independent review, working with the Office for Fair Access, which would report to the House of Commons on all aspects of the new student support arrangements based on the first three years of operation of the policy. The Department has worked with HEFCE, OFFA and other outside bodies to develop a programme of work that will generate the evidence needed to meet the draft remit of the review.

Existing sources of data, information and analysis have been identified for each area, and work has begun to commission new studies where existing sources are felt to be insufficient.

In terms of student numbers, although in 2006 there was a small decrease (4.5 per cent.) in university entrants accepted through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Scheme (UCAS), this came on the back of a larger than usual increase (8.9 per cent.) in those entering in 2005. Compared to 2004, numbers for 2006 entry were up by 12,000 or 4.3 per cent. It is as we expected, and is what happened when tuition fees were first introduced in 1998. Then, there was a small reduction, after which applications continued upwards. The underlying trend is still up and the proportion of applicants from lower socio-economic groups has not fallen.