Higher Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Education and Science – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th January 1988.

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Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough 12:00 am, 19th January 1988

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science whether he proposes to make any changes in the funding of places for part-time students in colleges of higher education.

Mr. Jackson:

The allocations of recurrent funding to polytechnics and colleges in 1988–89, announced by my right hon. Friend on 18 December, provided enhanced funding for students enrolled on certain evening courses. If the Education Reform Bill becomes law in the current Session, decisions about the funding of part-time students in polytechnics and colleges in 1989–90 and beyond will be a matter for the new Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council.

Photo of Mr John Watts Mr John Watts , Slough

In view of what my hon. Friend has said about the freedom of the new funding body to determine appropriate multipliers, why have the existing inadequate multipliers been enshrined in schedule 7 to the Education Reform Bill? Does that represent the Government's assessment of an appropriate level of funding?

Mr. Jackson:

There has been some misunderstanding of the point. This is a welcome opportunity to make it clear. The Bill sets up the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council. It is required, therefore, to set criteria for the entry into the new sector of institutions. Among those are criteria relating to student numbers. When computing numbers, the question is how to count part-time numbers. That is the simple function of schedule 7, and it has no other function.

Photo of Hilary Armstrong Hilary Armstrong Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson

I had looked for a more hopeful answer from the Minister. Encouraging more people, particularly women, back into education demands a funding system that enables them to afford to do it. Will the Minister commit himself to working out ways in which more of our adults, particularly women, will be able to enter higher education?

Mr. Jackson:

There was a review last year of part-time students by the National Advisory Body. It is likely that the new Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council will wish to review the matter. Meanwhile, may I say to the hon. Lady that the proportion of women in full-time university or higher education rose from 1979 to 1986 from 38 to 42 per cent.

Photo of Martin Smyth Martin Smyth , Belfast South

Will the Minister re-examine help to part-time students, bearing in mind that over the past year some people have used their time profitably to study, but that under the new social security regulations, it is not likely that they will get grants for study?

Mr. Jackson:

The Government attach great importance to part-time study, and I shall certainly look at the point made by the hon. Gentleman.