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Finance

Volume 474: debated on Tuesday 22 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) if he will estimate the cost to the public purse of making the support available to full-time over 25-year-olds enrolled on their first full level 3 course equivalent to that of full-time, home-based, first degree undergraduates in respect of (a) grants, (b) maintenance loans and (c) fee loans; (196897)

(2) if he will estimate the cost to the public purse of making the support available to part-time over 25-year-olds enrolled on their first full level 3 course equivalent to that of full-time, home-based, first degree undergraduates in respect of (a) grants, (b) maintenance loans and (c) fee loans; and if he will make a statement;

(3) if he will estimate the cost to the public purse of making the support available to full-time 19 to 25-year-olds enrolled on their first full level 3 course equivalent to that of full-time, home-based, first degree undergraduates in respect of (a) grants, (b) maintenance loans and (c) fee loans; and if he will make a statement.

The Government offer a range of support for adults to enable them to get the skills they need for their career, or for progression, in whatever way best suits their needs, including both full and part-time provision.

We have put in place a different set of support arrangements for learners on full level 3 courses in Further Education, compared to home-based university undergraduates. Our priority for level 3 entitlement learners is to help young adults to complete their initial education and provide full fee remission to protect them from increases in FE fees and learner support for those on low incomes; the Adult Learning Grant pays up to £30 per week during term times to help with learning costs for those studying for a first full level 3 (or first full level 2) qualification. They may then go on to higher education and take advantage of HE student support, or progress to higher skills training and/or employment. HE students undertake longer, more expensive courses, with higher additional incidental costs, such as books and materials, which is why the financial support arrangements are not directly comparable.

We already have a strong package of measures in place to help young adults achieve advanced level 3 qualifications. In the Budget, the Chancellor announced an additional £60 million over the next three years for advanced level 3 skills. This will allow more individuals to get the skills they need to get second chances and unlock their talents. We will be exploring new and innovative approaches to delivering training that individuals and employers need.

These new resources will move us a step closer to realising our ambitious vision for universal Skills Accounts where adults will be able to access significant investment in their skills, including an Apprenticeships credit to cover training costs. We will be undertaking trials of Skills Accounts in 2008/09 and 2009/10, with national roll-out from 2010. And increasing the number of Advanced Apprenticeships will be a key focus for these additional resources, building on the recommendations of the recent Apprenticeships review.