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Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills which English universities require a foreign language GCSE or equivalent qualification as a condition of admission for UK-domiciled undergraduates. 
Bill Rammell: That information is not collected centrally by the Department. As independent bodies, higher education institutions are free to set their own entry requirements for individual courses. A large number of institutions are now providing Entry Profiles for their courses, to enable potential applicants to clarify the entry criteria for any courses that they may be interested in. It is important that HE institutions publicise the availability of Entry Profiles and that careers advisers take them into account when advising young people on their Options choices at age 13-14.
Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how much was spent on administering the Learning and Skills Council in the latest 12 months for which figures are available. 
Bill Rammell: The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) spent £226.8 million on administration in financial year 2006-07; the latest 12 months for which figures are available. This includes expenditure on direct staff pay costs; other staffing costs including training and accommodation; and asset depreciation costs.
The LSCs Grant Letter published in October 2006 set out administration funding for 2007-08 of £219.5 million. The final audited expenditure figures for that year will be published before summer recess.
The LSCs administration costs have fallen steadily from 4.6 per cent. of total funding in 2001-02, to 1.9 per cent. of its total budget in 2007-08. The latest LSC Grant Letter published in November 2007, shows that further administration efficiency savings will be delivered over the course of the next three years. By 2010-11 the administration budget of the LSC will have fallen to £205.7 million which represents 1.6 per cent. of the total budget of the LSC in that year.
Mr. Rob Wilson: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what proportion of students from other EU member states received financial assistance from his Department for (a) tuition fees and (b) living costs in each of the last 10 years for which figures are available. 
Bill Rammell: EC nationals are eligible for tuition fee support only, provided that they have been ordinarily resident in the EEA and Switzerland for the three years prior to the start of their course.
The following table shows the number of new and continuing students in each academic year and those who received tuition fee support. Prior to 2006-07, this support was in the form of a means tested grant. Since 2006-07, new students were eligible to apply for a non-means tested loan.
|EU domiciled students studying in England by support received|
|EU domiciled students||Students receiving fee grants||Students receiving fee loans||Percentage receiving fee grants||Percentage receiving fee loans|
1. Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). Figures are on a snapshot basis as of 1 December for comparability across the years.
2. Student Loans Company (SLC). Since 2006-07 a student may be in receipt of either a grant (continuing students) or a loan (new students).
Only EEA and Swiss migrant workers and certain family members who have been ordinarily resident in the EEA and Switzerland and EC nationals who have been ordinarily resident in the UK and Islands may be eligible to the full support package.
Lembit Öpik: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what discussions he has had with the Science and Technology Facilities Council on the level of funding for research in physics and astronomy; and if he will make a statement. 
The STFC published its Delivery Plan on 11 December 2007 following its Science Budget Allocation which amounted to an additional £185 million over the CSR period and a total budget of £1.9 billion over that period.
STFC Council has made clear that the funding for physics exploitation grants will remain broadly level in this financial year (2008/09). Bill Wakeham, Vice Chancellor of Southampton University, has been asked to lead a review of the health of physics research in the UK, as part of a RCUK review of the continued health of key research disciplines. The review panel is expected to report to the RCUK Executive Group in September, and the results of the review will be published shortly afterwards.
STFC also announced that funding for Particle Physics grants will be 43 per cent. higher in 2008/09 than it was in 2005/06, while in Nuclear Physics, a grant round now in progress will provide an increase of 78 per cent. in 2008/09 compared to 2005/06.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will include current undergraduate students in plans for increased maintenance grants under the Government's new student finance package; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: The Government's plan for increasing the income thresholds for full and partial entitlement to maintenance grants, as part of the changes to the support package that were announced on 5 July 2007, will apply only to students who will be entering higher education in or after September 2008. We have no plans to extend this change to cover existing students. The fundamental changes to the system that we introduced in 2006, which included the deferment of fees by taking out a loan, rather than paying them up-front, offered a very attractive support package, and this continues to be available to current students.
Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what mechanisms his Department plans to introduce to ensure EU-domiciled students are subject to the new funding arrangements for people who are studying for equivalent or lower qualifications. 
Bill Rammell: There will be amendments to the appropriate regulations to reflect that all students, including EU-domiciled students, who wish to study an equivalent or lower level course of higher education in England will be subject to the new funding arrangements
The overwhelming majority of both EU and UK students are honest and will follow the rules in good faith. But there will be mechanisms to prevent deliberate fraud as there are under the current system and these will operate in a way that sets an appropriate balance between the need for regulation and the desire to avoid an overly bureaucratic system. In all cases, HEFCE will work with institutions to audit fundable student numbers and final HEFCE funding will be determined on the basis of audited returns and through a robust audit process. The Student Loans Company will be reviewing its processes to cover the new arrangements and ensure that mechanisms are in place to deter and detect fraudulent applications.
Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) how many undergraduates (a) qualified for maintenance grants of (i) £2,835, (ii) £2,2002, (iii) £998, (iv) £524 and (v) £50 and (b) received no grant in the most recent period for which figures are available; 
Bill Rammell: The figures in the question apply for the upcoming academic year. Therefore as yet no one is receiving grants on this basis. I apologise for the delay in responding to the hon. Member, this was due to an administrative error.
To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills how many people making repayments of a student loan are yet to receive
an updated statement, including details of repayments made in the 2004-05 tax year, due to delays in HM Revenue and Customs processing employer returns for that tax year; and if he will make a statement. 
Bill Rammell: The Student Loans Company updates individual accounts and provides borrowers with an updated statement within a month of receiving details of borrowers' repayments from Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
Repayments are linked to income, so it is not possible to know precisely how many borrowers have earned over the income threshold during a particular financial year until all employers' annual returns for student loan borrowers have been received, and the student loan repayments for every individual borrower have been processed. For the tax year 2004-05 HMRC has passed to the SLC repayment information for some 649,148 borrowers, against a projected range of 600,000 to 650,000 borrowers.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many postal ballot papers were issued to UK citizens residing overseas during the last (a) local elections in England and (b) general election. 
Bridget Prentice: Locally appointed returning officers are responsible for the conduct of elections and are responsible for storing and collecting any data arising from these elections. As such we do not collect or hold data centrally on the number of postal ballot papers which were issued to UK citizens residing overseas during the last local and general elections.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many postal ballot papers issued to UK citizens residing overseas in the last (a) local elections in England and (b) general election were (i) returned and (ii) rejected by acting returning officers for reasons of lateness. 
Bridget Prentice: Locally appointed returning officers are responsible for the conduct of elections arid are responsible for collecting and storing any data arising from these elections. As such, we do not collect or hold data centrally on either the number of ballot papers which were returned by UK citizens living abroad at the last local and general elections or the number of postal ballots from UK citizens overseas voters which were rejected by acting returning officers for reasons of lateness.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what period of time was provided for postal ballot papers to be (a) issued and (b) delivered to the address of UK citizens residing overseas during the last (i) local elections in England and (ii) general elections. 
Bridget Prentice: There was no prescribed last date for the issue or delivery of postal votes to UK citizens residing overseas prior to either the last local or general elections in England. Postal ballot papers may be printed and prepared for delivery once the identity of the candidates is known, following the close of the period for nominations. The earliest date that postal votes will be issued and delivered at local and general elections in England to existing postal voters is 11 working days before polling day, which is the last date in which they can cancel or vary their arrangements. Postal ballots can be dispatched to new postal vote applicants as soon as practicable after their applications have been granted.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the period of time given for UK citizens residing abroad to (a) receive and (b) return completed postal ballot papers during the last (i) local elections in England and (ii) general election; and if he will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: While no formal assessment has been made we are aware that some UK citizens residing abroad have experienced difficulties with the current period of time given for receiving and returning their completed postal ballot papers for elections in England.
Returning officers are aware of the need to put the Electoral Commission's guidance on issuing postal votes into effect. The guidance (i) stipulates that postal votes should be issued to all who have applied, including long-term postal voters as soon as practicable after the deadline for new applications for postal votes which is 11 working days before the election and (ii) communicates that consideration may also be given to prioritising the issuing of ballot papers that are going outside the UK.
We have and will continue to look at ways in which we can improve the voting process for UK citizens residing abroad. To date our work has included implementing provisions under the Representation of the People Act 2000 to allow overseas voters to vote by post. Previously, such voters were only able to appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf.
Sir Nicholas Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will increase the period of time given to UK citizens residing abroad to (a) receive and (b) return completed postal ballot papers during (i) local elections in England and (ii) general elections; and if he will make a statement. 
Bridget Prentice: There are practical issues including uncertainty in the declaration of the results and outcomes of elections should any change be made to the timing of the postal ballots to overseas voters. Any change would also need to take into account the need to ensure that candidates continue to have reasonable time to put forward their nominations.
Returning officers are aware of the need to put the Electoral Commission's guidance on issuing postal votes into effect. The guidance (i) stipulates that postal votes should be issued to all who have applied, including long-term postal voters as soon as
practicable after the deadline for new applications for postal votes which is 11 working days before the election and (ii) communicates that consideration may also be given to prioritising the issuing of ballot papers that are going outside the UK.
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