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Higher Education Applications

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on applications to higher education institutions since July, and the number of places available. [134220]

Mr. Wicks: The number of applicants through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service to full-time and sandwich first degree, and Higher National Diploma courses at UK institutions since July, is 35,177. The total number of acceptances as at 11 October is 336,930, an increase of 1.9 per cent. on last year. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service statistics do not include students wishing to enrol on part-time courses. Information on all entrants to higher education courses will be collected by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Foundation Degrees

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on recent developments in the establishment of foundation degrees. [134222]

Mr. Wicks: The core features of foundation degrees were set out in the 'Foundation degree prospectus', issued in July by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. These features will ensure that the foundation degree becomes a valued vocational HE qualification that meets employers' needs. The prospectus also invited bids from consortia to design and develop the prototype foundation degree programmes.

HEFCE received proposals from 56 consortia of HEIs, FECs and employers by the deadline earlier this month. This represents well over half of institutions with degree awarding powers drawn from across the higher education sector. We welcome this enthusiastic response and clear commitment to foundation degrees. The successful consortia will be announced in late November.

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Learning and Skills Councils

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will report progress on the establishment of local learning and skills councils and on the appointment of (a) their chairmen and (b) their members. [134223]

Mr. Wicks: We are making good progress in establishing the 47 local arms of the Learning and Skills Council. All 47 local Chairs and local Executive Directors have been appointed and we aim to announce local Council members by the end of November.

International Students

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the proportion of the international student market recently secured by higher education institutions in the United Kingdom; and what plans he has to increase this proportion. [134225]

Mr. Wicks: Some 18 per cent. of English-speaking international students (from outside the European Union) study in the United Kingdom, the remaining 82 per cent. studying almost exclusively in either the United States or Australia. Last year, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced the target of increasing this market share to 25 per cent. by 2005. Recent data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that acceptances by international students for undergraduate courses beginning in the 2000-01 academic year have increased by 8.2 per cent., compared to a rise of 1.9 per cent. for all UK undergraduates.

As part of my right hon. Friend's initiative to attract more international students to the UK, we have developed the Education UK Brand, a three-year world-wide campaign to promote the UK to potential students. We have made it easier for international students to come to the UK by making the visa service more user-friendly, normally allowing them from the outset leave to remain for the full duration of their course, and making it easier for them to work while studying. The number of places on the Chevening scholarship scheme has also been increased.

Court Judgments

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment if he will make a statement on the impact on the budgets of local education authorities of recent court judgments concerning special educational needs, with special reference to the four cases of Phelps, Jarvis, Anderton and a 16-year-old referred to as G. [134226]

Jacqui Smith: The impact on budgets of individual local education authorities of recent court judgments will depend on the number of further cases successfully brought before the courts. It is not possible to predict the likely number of such cases but it should be noted that in the Phelps case, so far the only one of the cases in which the facts have been considered and in which the court decided there had been negligence, the judgment recognised that

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Business Links

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has to (a) support and (b) encourage links between higher education and business. [134290]

Mr. Wicks: The Government plan to support and encourage higher education-business links through the establishment of a continuing stream of funding for institutions' work with business and the community. The Higher Education Funding Council for England has already allocated £82.16 million (including a contribution from DTI) for projects running until 2004 under the Higher Education Reach-Out to Business and the Community Fund. This fund will be incorporated into a new Higher Education Innovation Fund from the next financial year, which will also include an additional £80 million over three years from the Office for Science and Technology.

We also support activities to enable and encourage HE-business interaction to enhance the work-readiness of graduates. Higher education institutions are involving employers in the development of the new foundation degrees that are designed to meet the skills gap at the higher technician and associate professional level. We are also working with higher education institutions and National Training Organisations to develop Graduate Apprenticeships as a means of equipping graduates with an honours degree or higher-level qualification for work in specific employment sectors.

Performance Tables

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment further to his answer of 20 July 2000, Official Report, columns 305-06W, on performance tables, whether pupils recently arrived from overseas will be counted as being on school rolls in respect of Key Stage 3 test results. [134383]

Jacqui Smith: I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave on 28 July 2000, Official Report, column 1039W.

Milk (Schools)

Mr. Kidney: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what guidance he gives to headteachers and governors about the provision of subsidised milk in schools and the entitlement of pupils to receive free school milk. [134397]

Jacqui Smith: Schools and local education authorities are not obliged to provide milk for their pupils, but where they do so it must by law be supplied free of charge to those children whose parents are in receipt of either Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance. The Government issued guidance in September 1996. The Government encourage schools that do not provide drinking milk to consider doing so and to make use of either the EU School Milk Subsidy Scheme or the Welfare Food Scheme. These schemes are administered by the Intervention Board, on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Department of Health respectively, and it is for them to issue guidance as they consider necessary.

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Ministerial Meetings

Miss Widdecombe: To ask the Prime Minister what matters, other than the new agenda for reform of the police, were discussed at his meeting with the Home Secretary on 26 June; if he will place a copy of the minutes in the Library; and if he will make a statement. [134860]

The Prime Minister: It has been established practice under successive administrations not to disclose details of confidential discussions between Ministers.


Central Heating Fuel

Mrs. Shephard: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer by how much the cost of central heating fuel has risen due to (a) the increase in the price of crude oil and (b) increases in taxation, since 1 April 1998. [134292]

Mr. Timms: The information requested is contained in the Department of Trade and Industry's monthly statistical bulletin, "Energy Trends, March 1999". A copy of which is available in the House of Commons Library.

The rise in taxation was preceded in September 1997 by the Government's reduction in the rate of VAT on fuel and power used domestically, cutting the rate of VAT from 8 per cent. to 5 per cent., the lowest level allowed under European Community law.

Working Families Tax Credit

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many families he estimates are currently eligible for the Working Families Tax Credit; and how many of those are in receipt of it. [134427]

Dawn Primarolo: The number of families in receipt of the Working Families Tax Credit at the end of August 2000 is provisionally estimated at 1,123,000. This compares with 817,000 families who were in receipt of Family Credit in August 1999. The number of individuals and families in receipt of the Disabled Persons Tax Credit is provisionally estimated at 25,400. This compares with 18,469 recipients under Disability Working Allowance in August 1999.

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