§ 23. Mr. Jenkin
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what representations he has received concerning the Government's proposals for higher education funding. 
§ Dr. Howells
We have received a large number of representations. There is considerable support for the principle that the costs of higher education should be shared between those who benefit from it. The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals have given their backing to the broad principles of the proposed new funding arrangements, which have enabled the Government to announce an additional £125 million for universities and colleges for 1998–99 to maintain and improve quality and standards. The National Union of Students have supported the switch from grants to income260W contingent loans, which will mean a fairer system, with students having access to money to help with their living costs when they need it.
§ 27. Mr. Boswell
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the number of student applications to higher education institutions for entry in autumn 1998. 
§ Dr. Howells
The large increase in new entrants in autumn 1997 meant that fewer prospective students were expected to apply for next year. But latest published figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that the fall in applicant numbers by 15 December 1997 compared with the previous year was only some 4 per cent. The position since then has further improved. Home applicant numbers for 1998, while down on comparable numbers for 1997, are currently running at a similar level as for 1996 and 1995.