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Further Education Investment

Volume 512: debated on Monday 21 June 2010

On 24 May it was announced that a further £50 million would be invested in further education infrastructure to support the development of new college facilities. This is in keeping with the Government’s determination to make further education a key priority.

In that spirit, I am pleased to inform Parliament that the Government are today launching the College Investment Fund, and that the Skills Funding Agency will from today begin the process by which this extra resource is to be invested.

Many colleges up and down the country are still reeling from the effects of the crisis last year in the capital investment programme, which forced a review by Sir Andrew Foster that criticised

“failures in the general management and financial management of the Learning and Skills Council”.

While this Government are unable to undo the previous mismanagement of the FE capital programme, I fully recognise the crucial significance of ensuring the teaching and learning facilities in our further education colleges are up to date and fit for purpose.

Indeed, I am determined to ensure that colleges across Britain are the best they can be.

That is why the Government are so keen to support those colleges that did not previously benefit from large-scale public investment. For that reason, the £50 million additional capital will be available to all those further education colleges that have received less than £5 million in total grant support from the Learning and Skills Council since 2001.

Today, the Skills Funding Agency will write to all eligible further education colleges and confirm that they will each receive a share of a £30 million renewal grant. This will support 153 colleges across the country that have yet to benefit from significant capital funds. Each will receive approximately £225,000. I am advised that such investment is expected to facilitate considerable additional private finance.

The remaining £20 million will be made available to colleges through an enhanced renewal grant. Approximately 20 colleges will have the opportunity to add to their renewal grant, by bidding to build their total allocation to £1 million. Again it is anticipated that these grants will leverage substantial additional private finance, providing final projects of significant value.

Applications for the enhanced renewal grant will be assessed using key criteria, including the existing condition of bidding colleges’ estates and facilities; resulting benefits to learners; and the contribution which each applicant’s proposals make to the regeneration of their local community. Projects will be expected to meet exacting design standards, ensuring a built legacy of which all concerned can be proud.

The Skills Funding Agency and an expert panel will assess and prioritise all applications, with a view to announcing successful bids by the end of this summer. Crucially, all projects will have to be completed in time for learners to benefit from the new facilities by the start of the 2011-12 academic year.

I will be writing today to all Members of Parliament regarding this important announcement, and asking them to encourage eligible local colleges to apply for this new fund.