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Counselling: Finance

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 5 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will exempt those training to work as counsellors for Relate from the withdrawal of funding for equivalent or lower qualifications; and if he will make a statement. (178973)

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. However, in finalising our proposals in the light of consultation we have decided to make a number of adjustments. In particular, 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. That will provide an opportunity to consider the issue raised by the hon. Member.