HC Deb 22 July 1998 vol 316 cc562-3W
Mr. Jim Murphy

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will publish his report on the discharge of his duties for further education in Scotland as required under section 1 of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992; and if he will make a statement. [52146]

Mr. Dewar

My Report on Further Education in Scotland for 1997 has been published today and has been laid before each House of Parliament.

Copies are available in the Library of the House.

The Report, entitled "Further Education in Scotland 1997: Report by the Secretary of State for Scotland" shows this Government's commitment to increasing participation in further education and providing opportunities for lifelong learning for all. We want to widen access to groups of people who are under-represented in the ranks of FE students, for instance by reason of age or social or economic background. Much has been achieved, with the figures for 1996–97, revealing for example, a marked increase in the number of students aged 25 or over. We are building on that progress.

We want to see, through development of a strategic framework focusing on both access and collaboration, a situation in which colleges see each other as partners rather than rivals in the provision of FE, working together to plan to offer a balance of FE provision which better reflects both student and labour market demands.

Further Education is entering a new era. It is positioned at the cross-roads of both Scottish education and of many of the Government's key policies and initiatives. Big challenges lie ahead but the FE sector has always demonstrated its ability and determination to respond to such challenges. The new era was launched last week when I announced an additional £214m for FE over the next 3 years to address historic underfunding, stabilise the sector's financial position and support further increases in student numbers.

My intention is to work with the FE colleges towards the shared objective of the opportunity of quality further education for all of Scotland's people, to enable them to fulfil their potential, not only contributing to but sharing in our future economic prosperity.