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Higher Education: Finance

Volume 472: debated on Monday 25 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will make it his policy to exempt students of the Relate Institute at Doncaster college from the decision to reduce funding for students studying for an equivalent or lower qualification; and if he will make a statement. (178254)

No students currently studying equivalent or lower qualifications (ELQs) will be affected by these changes. In future, our policy of redistributing grant will widen participation and mean that more of the million people of working age who do not have a first higher-level qualification, especially those from non-traditional backgrounds, will be able to benefit from participating in higher education. There can be no exemptions for particular institutions and Doncaster college will remain responsible for decisions on how it allocates its overall budget for higher education. However, in finalising our proposals in the light of consultation we have decided to make a number of adjustments:

(a) We have asked HEFCE to increase the part-time teaching premium from the £20 million originally put forward in the consultation to £30 million. This is a response to concerns about overall impact on part-time provision and the sustainability of subjects that are of particular interest to those who might study on a part-time basis, perhaps after a career break;

(b) There will 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 in cases where there is evidence of a fall in demand advise us on the best way forward:

(c) The text of the HEFCE Grant Letter says “I hope you will also carefully consider the position of institutions most affected by this change to the funding rules, in allocating the new funded places that are being created”.

(d) We want to set on record what the position will be in three years time. All we have asked HEFCE to do is to find savings of about £100 million a year by 2010-11. Anything beyond that has to be speculation, but no-one is going to fall off the edge of a funding cliff either now or in three years’ time. Indeed, the reality is that no strategic decision has been taken about whether to reallocate further ELQ funding after 2010-11.