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Higher Education

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent improvements the Government have made to buildings and teaching facilities in higher education. [53629]

Margaret Hodge: In 1999–2000 the Government made available £35 million in England for higher education capital funding. In the succeeding years, the amounts made available were £50 million, £100 million, £145 million, and in 2003–04 £194 million, to support the teaching infrastructure, modernise and improve the estates and build new medical schools. Of this, £56 million over two years to 2003–04 is to help institutions meet the cost of the statutory changes relating to the access parts of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Act 2001.

To this, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) adds funding which it finds from its own resources to promote capital investment, often with contributions from others. For example, between 1998–99 and 2002–03 the HEFCE Poor Estates Initiative has invested £291 million in the sector, supporting 149 projects at 80 institutions with a total value of £950 million.

Alongside this, the Government, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, have plans to invest some £1.75 billion in research infrastructure in universities and elsewhere over the four years to 2003–04.

Mr. Wray: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how much more investment has been put into higher education in the current spending review than in the previous year. [53630]

Margaret Hodge: Since 1998, the total additional funding for institutions is £1.7 billion, an increase of 37 per cent. in cash terms or 18 per cent. in real terms over the six years to 2003–04. Publicly planned funding for higher education in England in 2001–02 is £396 million more than in 2000–01, so that for the first time in over a decade funding per student will rise in real terms, and further expansion of student places will be fully funded in the following two years. In addition the sector will benefit from £1 billion joint Welcome Trust and Government investment in research and technology infrastructure between 2002 and 2004, plus further

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funding of £250 million over the three years to 2003–04 through the Office of Science and Technology for priority research in areas such as e-science and genomics.

Alistair Burt: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what her Department's definition is of higher education in the context of her Department's target for 50 per cent. of all 18 to 30-year-olds to experience higher education by 2010; and if she will make a statement. [55060]

Margaret Hodge: The Government are committed to increasing and widening participation in higher education so that more young people benefit from the opportunities that higher education brings in terms of employability, earnings and quality of life. At the same time, we want to ensure that we meet the UK's needs for a highly skilled, competitive work force.

We measure participation in higher education by means of the Initial Entry Rate (IER). The IER includes all courses of one year or more, above A-level and its equivalents, which lead to a qualification awarded by higher education institutions or widely recognised national awarding bodies (eg. the Institute of Management).

We are also currently seeking advice from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority regarding a very small number of professional qualifications of less than one year's duration, for example in nursing, law, business and management. The QCA will advise us whether the nature and content of these qualifications could appropriately be classified as being of higher education standard.

Child Care

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills how many children's places there were in (a) Southwark, (b) London and (c) England in (i) May 1997, (ii) May 2001 and (iii) April 2002; and if she will make a statement. [52033]

Margaret Hodge [holding answer 2 May 2002]: The information is not available in the form requested. The available information, which was provided by local authorities, is shown in the table.

Latest figures on day care facilities in England were published by my Department in the Statistical Bulletin "Children's Day Care facilities at 31 March 2001 (08/01)" in October 2001, a copy of which is available from the Library. An electronic copy of this publication is also available on my Department's website ( statistics).

From 1998 to 2001 Southwark has received £837,370 of child care and European Social Fund supported grant funding. In 2001–02 £240,765 of European Social Fund money and £2,961,854 of child care funding was available for Southwark's early years development. Of this £2,301,424 is funding from the Neighbourhood Nursery Initiative (NNI), which hopes to create 45,000 child care places in Neighbourhood Nursery Centres in disadvantaged areas over the period 2001–04. In 2002–03 Southwark will receive £754,430 of child care and European Social Fund supported grant funding.

Day care places for children under 8 in 1997 and 2001—Southwark, London and England (position at March 31 each year)

Day nurseries Childminders Playgroups Out of school clubs Holiday schemes(9)
Southwark 1,6501,9061,0481,0811,1119042,0773,1132,3054,940
Greater London 27,65044,83447,56238,50441,53431,11113,73132,20745,574140,261
Inner London(10)15,05222,75113,10610,6399,8998,4058,18020,42219,21063,180
Outer London(10)12,59822,08334,45627,86531,63522,7065,55111,78526,36477,081
England 193,800285,100365,200304,600383,700330,20078,700152,800209,000598,000

(9) Holiday schemes cannot be directly compared due to changes in instructions given to data providers.

(10) The 2001 definition of inner and outer London is used.

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Engineering Qualifications

Mr. Chaytor: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what recent representations she has received in respect of new vocational qualifications in engineering; if she will make it her policy to extend funding approval for existing qualifications pending further consultation on the curriculum design of the new qualifications; and if she will make a statement. [53827]

Mr. Ivan Lewis: I have received representations from the National Forum for Engineering in Colleges. I am aware of the importance of existing qualifications to the continued running of Modern Apprenticeships and have consequently asked the Learning and Skills Council to identify which are essential until new accredited qualifications can replace them. The LSC is working closely with relevant sector bodies, including EMTA for engineering, to that end. Once the qualifications are identified and following consultation with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, I will take action to approve them. Outside the Modern Apprenticeship context, approvals will be limited to qualifications accredited by the QCA. Persons over 19 should have no problem in accessing existing courses, as LSC funding for them is not dependent on there being an approved qualification.

Engineering Course

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills (1) what assessment she has made of whether the new AVCE engineering course has been introduced as intended; and if she will make a statement on the opportunity the course gives students to achieve grades that will enable them to follow their chosen career paths; [54543]

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Margaret Hodge: The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) is monitoring all new AVCE qualifications, including engineering, as part of its remit to review the performance of the awarding bodies in delivering qualifications. AVCE courses give students suitable opportunities to achieve grades to enable them to follow their chosen career paths, including progression to employment, higher education or further training such as modern apprenticeships.

QCA's work in monitoring the work of awarding bodies includes ensuring that qualifications are suitable for purpose and that students have the opportunity to achieve grades which reflect their achievement.

The Secretary of State has not had discussions with the Chief Inspector on the subject in question. However, Ofsted Inspectors have programme of visits and inspections of schools and colleges to enable them to inspect standards. QCA held a two-day conference for awarding body chief examiners in November 2001.

AVCE qualifications have been designed to ensure that they are fully comparable with GCE A levels. QCA is charged with the task of maintaining standards of assessment and ensuring that it is consistent across all awarding bodies.

QCA and departmental officials have visited FE colleges to discuss the AVCE engineering course assessment.

Awarding bodies provide training and guidance to examiners on assessment. QCA is working with the awarding bodies to ensure that this training and guidance is appropriate and effective and that assessment gives a fair appraisal of students' achievement.

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