HC Deb 22 January 1998 vol 304 cc693-4W
Mr. Swayne

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the efficiency savings which will result from the operation of the Student Support Agency. [24424]

Dr. Howells

Much would depend on the functions of the agency, the timetable for its introduction and the alternatives.

The National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education recommended reforms to student support. It recommended that student support should be administered centrally, to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The Government see some attractions in this approach but consider that it needs to be examined in more detail.

The Government are also conscious that there are complex transitional arrangements which form part of the Dearing student support reforms. Until the academic year 1999–00, there will be very many different entitlements for students in the HE system. Therefore the Government are adopting a traditional approach which will allow the new arrangements to bed down. After that, it is the Government's intention to review the means of administering student support.

For the transitional period we shall be setting rigorous performance standards for LEAs, and the specific grant funding regime will be based on these standards. The Government are keen to ensure that students are given a high level of service that inspire confidence in the reforms. Our review, which will report in 2000, will consider this fully.