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.
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?
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.
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?
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.