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21 Apr 2008 : Column 1632W—continued

Student retention rates in this country compare very well internationally. The UK ranks fifth in the OECD for first degree completion rates, out of 23 countries who report data in this area. A university education is now open to more students than ever before and the Government are totally committed to providing opportunities for all people to achieve their potential and to maximise their talent.

Students: Fees and Charges

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government plans to take to prevent students from being banned from university campuses due to late payment of fees. [177316]

Bill Rammell: All eligible students starting their higher education course in the academic year 2006/07 can take out a non means-tested loan for tuition fees: they do not have to pay the fees themselves at the start of the academic year. The fee loan is up to £3,070 in 2007/08 (£3,145 in 2008/09, The Student Loans Company pay the tuition fee direct to higher education institutions; the loan is repaid after graduation on the same terms as loans for maintenance. The policy on payments and attendance is a matter for each higher education institution.

We re-introduced a means-tested higher education maintenance grant for students who started their course in 2006/07, Up to £2,765 is available in 2007/08 (£2,835 in 2008/09). From 2008/09 the minimum threshold (of family income) for a full maintenance grant will be increased from £17,500 a year to £25,000 a year; with a partial grant available up to an income threshold of £60,000, It is expected that up to around two thirds of air students will receive a full-or partial-grant

For full-time students, maintenance loans are also available—for example up to £6,315 in 2007/08 (£6,475 in 2008/09) for students in London living away from home. Most universities offer institutional bursaries above the mandatory minimum level of £305 in 2007/08 (£310 in 2008/09).

In addition, full-time students with dependants can claim supplementary grants including adult dependants grant; Parents learning allowance and childcare grant. Both full and part-time students can claim disabled students allowances to support the course related costs of disabled students.

For part-time students, in 2007/08 a fee grant of up to £1,150 (£1,180 in 2008/09) is available (depending on how intensive the course is), together with a course grant of up to £250 (£255 in 2008/09).

Students: Finance

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps his Department plans to take to ensure that funds allocated by universities for student bursaries are fully spent. [188042]

Bill Rammell: The director for fair access is responsible for ensuring that universities have satisfactory access agreements in place as a pre-condition of charging variable fees and for ensuring that institutions comply with these obligations. A range of sanctions is available to the director if a university is found to be in breach. In 2006-07, the director has reported that all universities have complied with the obligations in their access agreements.

The question rests on a misunderstanding of how bursaries work. Institutions do not allocate a fixed amount of expenditure for bursaries. They have made forecasts of the costs of their bursaries packages, but these have always contained a level of uncertainty for methodological reasons. Additionally, a number of universities forecast their highest level of overall payment rather than the most probable outcome.

I have always made it clear that where a university is spending less than it had anticipated on bursaries, it would be right to spend on other activities to encourage widening participation, which will not normally be reported under the access agreement. The Russell Group and the 1994 Group of universities and individual institutions have supported this policy.

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills when the sector assessment of the impact of the new funding criteria for equivalent or lower qualification students will be published. [198524]

Bill Rammell: We will respond substantively to this point when we publish our response to the Innovation, Universities and Skills Select Committee's recent report. But any full analysis has to look not just at the characteristics of existing students but also at the millions of potential students without a first higher education qualification who will have more opportunities in future as a result of our policy.

Students: Loans

Dr. Cable: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what estimate he has made of the revenue which would be received by the Exchequer from increasing the interest rates charged on student loans by (a) 0.1 per cent. and (b) 1 per cent. in 2008-09. [166346]

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Bill Rammell: The principle behind student loans is that borrowers repay broadly the same amount, in real terms, as they have borrowed. The interest rate on student loan balances is therefore fixed at the rate of inflation.

Increasing the interest rate on student loan balances by 0.1 or 1 per cent. above inflation would provide no immediate additional revenue to the Exchequer. Repayments are based on earnings and not the amount borrowed, so increasing the interest rate charged to borrowers would not impact on receipts in 2008-09, although it would impact on receipts in the future.

Under resource accounting, the Government accounts for the full lifetime cost of making a student loan in the year that loan is made. Any change in the way the interest rate was calculated would increase or decrease those costs.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much student grant his Department expects undergraduates from each parental income decile to receive under the first year of operation of the new system announced by the Secretary of State in July 2007. [196637]

Bill Rammell: The July 2007 announcement increases the means-testing threshold below which students are entitled to a full maintenance grant up from £17,910 for entrants in 2007/08 to £25,000 for entrants in 2008/09. The threshold for a partial grant will increase from £38,330 for entrants in 2007/08 to £60,005 for entrants in 2008/09. These thresholds relate to household income.

This will mean that one third of all eligible students in England entering higher education in the academic year 2008/09 are expected to be entitled to a full non-repayable grant worth £2,835 and another one third are expected to be entitled to a partial grant of between £50 and £2,835. Until students apply for support for 2008/09, we do not know the amount of grant per income decile as we do not know exactly where the decile bands will fall on the income scale. Further information on the amount of grant available to students in 2008/09, by household income, is set out in a memorandum entitled “Support Available Under the Student Support Regulations”, a copy of which can be found in the House Library.

Due to these reforms, by 2011, the number of students receiving some level of grant will increase by around 100,000. As part of this change, an extra 50,000 students will receive a full grant.

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what the (a) total and (b) per capita student loan take-up was classified by parental (i) income decile and (ii) socio-economic group in each of the last five years. [196640]

Bill Rammell: 75 per cent. of the maximum loan amount available is not means tested, so borrowers choosing to apply only for this part do not provide income details. This will include borrowers who know their household income is too high to be eligible for the means-tested element, those who do not wish to provide income details, and those choosing to take a smaller loan. Data are therefore not available to classify borrowers by income or socio-economic group.

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From 2006-07 students from lower income households have had part of their maintenance support met through a non-repayable maintenance grant, and their entitlement to maintenance loan is therefore reduced to reflect this. Loan entitlement is reduced by £1 for every £1 of maintenance grant entitlement up to £1,200 in 2006-07 (£1,230 in 2007-08).

Available data are shown in the table.

Maintenance loans taken out by English domiciled students, sum borrowed and average loan, academic years 2002-03 to 2006-07
Academic year Number of loans taken ou t (thousand) Sum borrowed (£ million) Average value of loan (£)





















(1) Provisional data.
Student Loans Company

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what the net value of the student loan book is. [199420]

Bill Rammell: The balance of publicly-owned student loans on 31 March 2007 was £18.1 billion, including loans not yet due for repayment. This figure relates to English domiciled students and graduates who studied in the UK, and EU students and graduates who studied in England.

Students: Public Participation

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills who the members of the National Student Forum are; and if he will make a statement. [198834]

Bill Rammell: The National Student Forum (NSF) has been established, as part of our Student Listening Programme, to help amplify the voice of higher education students in Government. It held its first meeting on 28 February 2008. The Forum has an independent chair, Maeve Sherlock.

The confirmed members of the Forum are as follows:

21 Apr 2008 : Column 1635W

Work is in hand to confirm appointments for the two outstanding vacancies.

The Forum members represent the broad diversity of students in higher education, including both full-time and part-time students, postgraduates and undergraduates, students with disabilities and international students.

The National Student Forum is an important and innovative development which will help to ensure that the views of students are taken into account in our policy development and implementation.

Training: Apprentices

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps he is taking to increase the involvement of Government Departments and agencies in the provision of apprenticeships; and if he will make a statement. [196631]

Mr. Lammy: The Government skills strategy announced on 1 April and agreed by Government Departments and the armed forces aims to raise professional standards and strengthen skills over a three-year period to meet the needs of the sector. This strategy includes a programme to create 500 new apprenticeships in Government Departments. This builds on the good work already done on apprenticeships by some Government Departments such as Department for Work and Pensions, the Ministry of Defence and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

Universities: Business

Mr. Prisk: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills when the Government expect that every university will be twinned with a business champion. [193764]

Bill Rammell: Business engagement in different forms is increasingly a mainstream activity for every university. Over 90 per cent. provide an inquiry point for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and over 80 per cent. provide short bespoke courses on company premises. It is for individual higher education institutions (HEIs) to decide the nature of their engagement with business, including whether to twin with a business champion.

However, the demands imposed by global competition mean that Government have a key role to play in creating the conditions within which individual HEIs develop a range of mutually beneficial collaborations with appropriate businesses and employer partners. For example, we have provided the funding to enable the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to deliver its ‘Transforming Workforce Development’ programme of activities, which is set to enable a wide range of HEIs to work more closely with businesses in supporting work force development. This will allow growth in a new form of higher education, co-funded by employers, that will deliver higher level skills provision that meets business needs.

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Vocational Education: USA

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps he is taking to encourage recognition in the United States of vocational qualifications awarded in the UK. [196990]

Mr. Lammy: The Government are keen to encourage recognition of UK qualifications overseas in order to help our citizens to study or work abroad. National Academic Recognition and Information Centres (NARICs), as do European Network of Information Centres (ENICs), exist to provide information and advice about vocational, academic and professional skills and qualifications from all over the world, and the NARIC/ENIC international network provides similar advice to UK citizens seeking to study or work abroad. In recent years the UK NARIC has worked with the US ENIC on the broad principles relating to recognition practices for vocational and professional qualifications below degree.

Vocational Training: Construction

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what assessment he has made of the compatibility of the training of youth construction workers offered by the Olympic Delivery Authority with the policies of World-Class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All. [196373]

Mr. Lammy: Our underlying commitments in world-class apprenticeships are to ensure a significant increase in the number and quality of apprenticeships. World-Class Apprenticeships emphasises our commitment to encourage companies contracted to the Government for projects such as the Olympics, to employ apprentices. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics and London has already responded to the hon. Member's previous question about the Olympic Delivery Authority's plans including their expectations for the provision of apprenticeships.

Zurich Financial Services

David T.C. Davies: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much his Department and its predecessors paid to Zurich Financial Services in each year since 1997; and what the purpose of the payment was in each case. [199600]

Mr. Lammy: The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills was created as a result of Machinery of Government changes in June 2007. DIUS has not made payment to Zurich Financial Services in the 2007-08 financial year.

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