HC Deb 13 July 1999 vol 335 cc168-9W
Mr. Hesford

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the Government's policy in respect of higher education under the auspices of further education colleges. [90526]

Mr. Mudie

We are committed to ensuring that everyone who has the capacity to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so. The Dearing Report into higher education recommended that the Government respond to increased demand for higher education at sub-degree level and that priority in this expansion should be given to further education colleges. Over the next two years, we are making available an additional 34,000 sub-degree places, the majority of which will be delivered by further education colleges.

Further education colleges have an important role to play in the delivery of higher education. They widen participation by bringing higher education within reach of most communities and attracting people from households with little or no tradition of higher education. Through their strong links with local business, they are also well placed to provide the skills needed by the local labour market and to help students into work.

Our confidence in the contribution played by further education colleges is reflected in the latest figures which show that colleges account for 11 per cent. of people studying higher education in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Chaytor

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will list the individual financial allocations to further education colleges from the FEFC Standards Fund together with the category of each allocation. [90454]

Mr. Mudie

The Further Education Funding Council published a Circular on the Use of the Standards Fund on 1 June 1999. The Standards Fund is intended to recognise and reward excellence, and to enable colleges to have access to funds to help them secure improvement. It will be allocated under four broad strands. These are: Strand 1: help for colleges which are causing concern to make rapid improvements; Strand 2: supporting post-inspection action plans for colleges which have been inspected since September 1997; Strand 3: supporting continuing professional development for lecturers, principals and governors; Strand 4: funding for colleges performing well—including those which achieve FEFC accredited status or are recognised by Ministers as 'Beacon' colleges—to share examples of good practice.

It is not possible to list the individual financial allocations to colleges at this stage. The Council's first priority is to arrange support for those colleges causing concern and therefore eligible for funding under Strand 1 of the Standards Fund. These colleges have been asked to prepare costed action plans and to submit these to the Council no later than 16 July 1999. Colleges eligible for funding under Strands 2 and 4 have been asked to prepare action plans as soon as possible and by the end of October 1999 at the latest. Strand 3 of the Standards Fund will require consultation and development before training initiatives can be finalised.

The adequacy of costed action plans provided by colleges will be assessed by the Council before funding is agreed. All action plans submitted to the Council will receive a response within five working weeks. To date, an action plan from Knowsley Community College has been approved under Strand 4 funding and a payment of £50,000 made to this accredited and Beacon college.

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