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Maintenance Grants

Volume 467: debated on Thursday 15 November 2007

7. How many additional students entering higher education in 2008 he estimates will be eligible for maintenance grants under the new arrangement. (164259)

From September 2008, the income thresholds for the full maintenance grant will be increased from £17,500 to £25,000 a year, with a partial grant available for incomes up to £60,000. We estimate that an additional 100,000 students will ultimately be eligible for a maintenance grant. Around one third of all students will be entitled to a full grant and a further third to a partial grant.

I thank the Minister for that response. I welcome the answer given by the Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education in response to the previous question about the fact that pupils receiving educational maintenance allowances will get confirmation at 16 that they will be entitled to a grant. Could the Secretary of State tell me what is being done to reach out to people who leave education but then want to re-enter it slightly later, and to educate them and inform them about their right to grants?

For those who would be eligible for the same financial assistance for their first degree, I draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the DVD that I have recently advertised to all Members. It is available to Members from my Department in suitable numbers to communicate with all constituents; or the simpler way is to provide a link to the new website created for our advertising campaign. We are keen to get the message across to as many people as possible.

If my hon. Friend is talking about people who are later on in life and would not come under the same financial provision, perhaps because they are working, she is right. There will be a need to encourage older people back into university, often to study part time, as well as those young and first-time undergraduates whom we are encouraging through the current financial system.

The way in which the package of measures for maintenance grants and tuition fees available to students in England and Wales is arranged means that there is a financial incentive for Welsh students to go only to Welsh universities. Does the Secretary of State agree that it would be profoundly depressing if we had reached a situation where youngsters in the Rhondda, one of the most disadvantaged areas in the country, went only to Welsh universities? Will he engage in conversations with his counterpart in the Welsh Assembly to ensure that youngsters in my constituency have a full range of possibilities when they go to university?

I am responsible for the financial arrangements in England; the devolved Assemblies have to make their own arrangements. Although we discuss these matters with the devolved Administrations at an official and ministerial level where necessary, it is for those Administrations to take their own decisions on them.