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Higher Education: Finance

Volume 472: debated on Thursday 21 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills whether funding for equivalent learning qualifications will be provided to those seeking second degrees or higher education qualifications; and if he will make a statement. (175716)

[holding answer 7 January 2008]: The progressive re-distribution of institutional funding away from students doing equivalent or lower level qualifications (ELQs) to ones they already hold will enable us to widen Higher Education participation and support more of the millions of people of all ages without a first Higher Education qualification. Nobody has challenged that priority as a matter of principle or on grounds of fairness or social justice. In addition, the analysis in the Lord Leitch’s report and comparative data from the OECD all support the conclusion that we are not producing enough graduates for our economic well-being. The ELQ policy sharpens the incentives in the system for HEIs to produce more of them to match our economic competitors. An extra 5 million people will need to go through university by 2020 if we are to be even on the edge of the premier league for world-class skills, with 40 per cent. of the work force with a first HE qualification. All of the £100 million affected by this policy will be redistributed to support this goal.

However, there will be transitional protection for existing ELQ students until they complete their courses and there will also be opportunities in future for students to pursue such qualifications through foundation degrees and employer co-funded provision. There will also be a review mechanism each year starting in December 2008 to look at individual subjects of particular economic or social importance. We are sure it would be wrong for us to rush into making special arrangements for any subjects, other than those which had already been identified, before any changes to ELQs, as requiring support in the public interest (such as medicine, initial teacher training teaching, science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, area-based studies, and modern foreign languages). But we are asking the Funding Council each year to look at levels of demand both for exempt or protected subjects and at any other subjects which might in future be regarded as key because of their economic or social significance and advise us on the best way forward.