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Investment in the Further Education Estate

Volume 515: debated on Wednesday 8 September 2010

On 24 May the Government announced that £50 million of re-prioritised Train to Gain funding would be invested in the further education infrastructure to support the development of new college facilities. On the 21 June, I informed the House that though the Government could not undo the previous mismanagement of the FE capital programme, they fully recognised the importance of ensuring that the teaching and learning facilities in our further education colleges be modern and fit for purpose.

That is why I made it clear that the Government would support those colleges who had not previously benefited significantly from public investment and so the £50 million would be targeted at those further education colleges that had received less than £5 million in total grant support since 2001 from the Learning and Skills Council.

I am pleased to inform Parliament that the Skills Funding Agency has today written to those colleges informing them that they will each receive up to a £225,000 renewal grant. The chief executive has informed 21 of these colleges that in addition to receiving a renewal grant they will also receive an additional enhanced renewal grant taking their total grant up to £1 million. This will help colleges modernise their facilities, giving them a much needed boost at a time when education could not be more important. Finally, the Skills Funding Agency is working with a further five colleges to resolve affordability issues so that they too can receive capital investment.

The Skills Funding Agency received 92 applications which were assessed in a robust and transparent process using three key criteria: the existing condition of the college estate and its facilities; proposed benefits to learners; and how the projects would contribute to the regeneration of their local communities.

This Government are committed to open and transparent decision making and accordingly the assessment exercise was scrutinised by representatives of the Association of Colleges who were satisfied that the selection process had been conducted properly and run smoothly.

All recipients of the enhanced renewal grant are expected to begin construction shortly with completion anticipated in September 2011, allowing learners to benefit from these new facilities in the 2011 academic year.

In addition I expect colleges to leverage additional private resources and I am pleased to inform the House that it is estimated that the £50 million allocated by the Government will produce a total investment in the further education estate of over £230 million. I am sure the House will agree that this investment will make a significant difference to learners across the country.

Please visit the Skills Funding Agency website (http://skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk) for a full list of successful colleges.