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Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government has taken to encourage universities to make their facilities available to the wider community. 
Bill Rammell: Higher Education institutions (HEIs), as independent bodies, are free to choose whether, and which, facilities are made available to the wider community. They already engage with the public in many ways, including providing access to sports facilities, museums, theatres and galleries; community volunteering by staff and students; and creating lifelong learning opportunities for a diverse body of learners. In 2005/06 over 70,000 people attended public lectures and over 1 million attended performance arts events organised by HEIs.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) is working with institutions in London and across the country to maximise the valuable contribution that HEIs1 facilities, staff and students will be making to the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics, as well as the event itself.
The Government recently announced an increase of funding for the HE innovation fund, to £150 million per year in 2010-11. That fund, run by HEFCE, supports HEIs to undertake a wide range of activities, including increasing their engagement with social, cultural and community organisations, as well as businesses, public services and the third sector. In addition, HEFCE, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust have supported the establishment of Beacons of Public Engagement, as part of the Governments Science and Society programme, in which HEIs will further develop their work to build links with the public.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) how many and what proportion of students from state maintained schools the Government estimates will attend a Russell Group university in each year until 2012-13; 
Bill Rammell: The Government have a target to increase participation in higher education towards 50 per cent. of those aged 18-30 with growth of at least a percentage point every two years to the academic year 2010-11. Increasing and widening participation in HE is a priority for social and economic reasonsforecasts show that, of the 12 million jobs expected to become vacant between 2004 and 2014, 6 million will be in occupations most likely to employ graduates.
The Government do not make projections of the number of students entering higher education at specific groups of institutions or from specific different sectors of the school system. However, since 1997 the proportion of students entering higher education from state schools has risen from 81.0 per cent. to 86.9 per cent. in 2005.
Bill Rammell: Widening participation is at the heart of our policies both for economic reasons and to promote social justice. The proportion of UK domiciled, young, full-time, first degree entrants to English higher education institutions who were from lower socio-economic groups rose from 27.9 per cent. in 2002/03 to 29.1 per cent. in 2005/06.
(a) an increase in the threshold so that more students qualify for full and partial maintenance grants;
(b) more flexibility into the repayment system, with the offer of a five-year repayment holiday; and
(c) introduction of a guaranteed level of support for students in receipt of education maintenance allowances from 2008 who go on to higher education.
In May this year, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) published guidance to Aimhigher partnerships and universities on how to target their interventions more effectively on young people from lower socio-economic groups. I announced recently that Aimhigher, which raises the attainment levels of young people and their aspirations towards higher education, will continue for another three years.
In October, DIUS and DCSF launched a joint prospectus on how universities could sponsor trusts or academies. Such partnerships, alongside Aimhigher partnerships, can bring together universities, colleges and schools to identify and nurture talented young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who would benefit from participation in HE.
This year, we also launched nine Excellence Hubs. These are higher education-led outreach centres providing aspiration raising activities for gifted and talented learners. Hubs provide at least 10 per cent. of places free to gifted and talented learners from poorer backgrounds.
In addition, higher education institutions run their own outreach activities, funded for example from tuition fee income under the terms of their access agreements with the Office for Fair Access, or from the widening participation allocation provided by HEFCE.
Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what assessment he has made of the effects of the proposal to withdraw Higher Education Funding Council for England funding for equivalent or lower level qualifications; and if he will make a statement. 
As we made clear when we announced it in September, our policy is not to withdraw funding for students studying for equivalent or lower level qualifications. It is to redeploy over three years around 30 per cent. of the funding that is available for such students and to redeploy it to fund students
without such prior qualifications. The policy will therefore promote both our objective of widening access to higher education and our progress towards the target that 40 per cent. of the working age population should have an HE qualification by 2020. It will enable us to support 20,000 more first-time or progressing students (in full-time equivalent terms) than would otherwise be possible, and create incentives for universities to reach out to the six million adults who currently have an A-level or equivalent qualification, but no HE experience.
Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what powers he has to take steps against those offering bogus degrees; whether any investigations are currently on-going; how many institutions have been closed as a result of such investigations in the last five years; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: The statutory responsibility to take investigations and enforcement actions rests with local authorities and their trading standards officers. It is an offence for a UK-based body to offer what could be taken to be UK degrees unless that body is recognised. In addition, local authorities can prosecute UK-based bodies illegally using the protected word "university" in the UK under Business Names regulations. The Trade Descriptions Act and misleading advertising regulations can also be employed in this context. However, the Department is actively assisting the Home Office, the Border and Immigration Agency and local authorities with a number of on-going investigations. Over the last five years, my Department (and its predecessors) has directly assisted local authorities in successful enforcement against 17 offending bodies with closure of 10 and prosecution of a further three. In addition, and since 1 January 2005, 256 colleges on the Department's Register of Education and Training Providers have been investigated by the Borders and Immigration Agency. Of these, 124 have been found to be in breach of the immigration rules, and therefore removed from the Register.
Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many and what percentage of UK-domiciled, full-time first degree students at each higher education institution neither obtained an award nor transferred to another institution in each year since 2003. 
Bill Rammell: The available information on the proportion of UK-domiciled entrants to full-time first degree courses who are projected to neither obtain an award nor transfer to another institution is taken from table T5 of the Performance Indicators in Higher Education and has been placed in the House of Commons Library. Information on the actual number of students who are projected to neither obtain an award nor transfer to another institution is not published.
This information was published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Figures for the
2005/06 academic year will become available in May of this year. The information is also available at the following website:
The percentage of students in England not completing their course has fallen to its lowest since the non-completion performance indicator was introduced, which already starts from a baseline which is low by international standards.
According to the figures published by the OECD, the overall completion rate for Type A (first degree equivalent) courses in UK universities and colleges of higher education is among the highest in the OECD countries (the UK ranks fifth out of 23 countries who report data in this area).
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many student fatalities there have been on university campuses in each of the last five years, broken down by cause of death. 
Bill Rammell: Abolishing interest on new student loansto English domiciled students in the UK and EU students studying in Englandwould increase the long-term resource cost from around 27 per cent. of the face value of the loans to 39 per cent. That means that every £100 lent to students, would cost the taxpayer £12 more, resulting in extra expenditure of around £700 million per year for maintenance and fee loans, once fee loans are in steady state. The estimated cost of abolishing interest for loans that have already been issued is £2.0 billion. These costs are due to the extra interest rate subsidy that would be incurred under a zero interest rate. The terms of student loans are already generous with interest pegged to the rate of inflation so that, in real terms, borrowers repay no more than they borrowed. Abolishing interest would substantially increase the costs to Government and to the taxpayer of subsidising these loans and means that students would repay less in real terms than they had borrowed.
Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many cases of identity fraud in applications for student loans were recorded in each of the last five years for which figures are available. 
Bill Rammell: The responsibility for confirming the identity of applicants for student support in England rests with local authorities and the number of cases of identity fraud is not centrally held at present. From 2009/10 the SLC will assess all new applications for student support, and records will be held centrally.
Where local authorities suspect fraud at the application stage, they will not process the application until they are completely satisfied with the documentary evidence. Where payments have been made, the local authorities may prosecute the students, or report the matter to the police for prosecution and recover any overpayments.
Last year, departmental officialsin conjunction with the Student Loans Company and local authoritiesinvestigated 15 cases of suspected identity fraud, including some involving the use of stolen birth certificates to create false identities, which resulted in successful prosecutions.
The NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service Study, commissioned by the Department last year, estimated the identity fraud rate for student support was around 0.6 per cent. of applications in 2005-06. We are working to reduce it further, but it is appreciably lower than other similar systems which involve payments.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what assessment he has made of the viability of providing statements and other information on student loans to students and graduates on the internet. 
Bill Rammell: Students are currently able to access a range of student support information online. This includes information, advice and guidance on the support available and how to apply, the status of their applications, details of decisions on loans, grants and other payments and access to copies of correspondence sent. Customers can also change address and bank account details online, subject to verification steps.
Following the publication of the report of end to end review of student finance delivery on 31 January 2006, I announced in a statement to the House on 3 July 2006, our plans to transform the student finance service. Key to this transformation is providing a modern, seamless, predominantly online service.
Improved, fully online application process
Enhanced online information, advice and guidance
Full online self service functionality
Graduates will also benefit from improvements, through a new repayment portal that will provide better information, advice and guidance, the facility to make additional repayments online and a repayment calculator that allows customers to calculate their current loan balance at any point during the tax year.
Bill Rammell: Information is not held centrally on how many universities might reasonably be said to be twinned with a business champion. However, links with business and other community partners are extensive across the higher education sector as a whole.
The latest Higher EducationBusiness and Community Interaction survey showed that, overall, HE institutions income from these sources rose by 8 per cent. over the period 2004-05 to 2005-06. Higher education and businesses collaborate on research, consultancy, continuing professional development, and knowledge transfer.
Increasingly, the demands of global competition require HE institutions to develop a range of links with business, and some are choosing to become explicitly business-facing. Higher educations interaction with business generates and exchanges knowledge and so helps drive innovation in goods and services.
We want to help create the conditions to promote increasingly beneficial collaborations with business, encouraging all HEIs to develop this as one of their strengths in ways consistent with their chosen missions.
Mr. Lammy: During the first 16 months of the Train to Gain operation, 52,730 employers participated in Train to Gain by working with a skills broker on an organisation needs analysis and agreeing what action to take forward as a result. 72 per cent. of those employers were defined as hard to reach, i.e. not accredited as an Investor in People and with no recorded investment at a publicly funded training provider.
Mr. Lammy: The National Employer Service (NES) is a division within Learning and Skills Council that exists to support national multi-site private sector employers with more than 5,000 UK employees. NES helps employers to build their understanding of the public skills system so that it works for them. The NES currently has contracts with around 80 large employers and in 2007/08, the NES is expected to help engage 42,000 learners through Train to Gain and an average of 62,000 apprenticeships in learning. This is under review as we expand the NESs scope to engage with a greater number of large employers as set out in the recent Plan for Growth.
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