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Higher Education: Community Relations

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government has taken to encourage colleges and universities to provide access to their facilities for the local community. [225570]

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Mr. Lammy: Further Education colleges provide a broad range of services to their local communities, not just in education but in support of broader aims relating to economic development, cohesion and social mobility. Colleges draw most of their students from the local area and work in partnership with other local organisations to determine how their strengths, including their premises and facilities, can best meet their community’s needs.

We are supporting them in this through record investment in buildings and equipment. Over the last 10 years, Government investment in the FE estate, including ICT, has totalled £2.4 billion.

The Learning and Skills Council is currently assessing the extent and nature of colleges’ provision of wider community activities including the community’s use of college facilities and will publish its findings in November. We will draw on these findings to identify good practice and to see what more might be done to support this aspect of colleges’ work.

The DIUS consultation “Informal Adult Learning - Shaping the Way Ahead” identified the need for low cost, accessible learning venues as a key issue. DIUS will work with other Government Departments and local authorities to consider how access to a wide range of public spaces, including colleges, can be encouraged and supported to provide free or subsidised venues for book clubs, family history or other groups of people learning for pleasure.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) 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 2006/07, over 110,000 people attended charged public lectures (and additionally 650,000 attended free events), and around 1,400,000 attended charged performance arts events organised by HEIs (and 412,000 attended free performance events). In addition, over 6,000 non-commercial partners, such as social, community and cultural organisations have benefited from the use of over £38 million worth of HEI facilities and equipments over the same period.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has recently published the confirmed distribution for 2008-11 of nearly £400 million to HEIs from the Higher Education Innovation Fund round 4 (HEIF 4), following approval of HEI strategies for its work to engage with social, cultural and community organisations, as well as businesses and public services (HEFCE Report 2008/34). An overview and assessment of these strategies is also available (HEFCE Report 2008/35).

Higher Education: Intellectual Property

Mr. Wallace: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what research his Department has (a) commissioned and (b) evaluated on exploitation of intellectual property in universities in the last three years. [223822]

Mr. Lammy: The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and its predecessors and agencies have commissioned four pieces of work on intellectual property and universities during the last three years. In August 2007, an independent report “Streamlining University/Business collaborative research negotiations”
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was submitted to the ‘Funders Forum’ of the Department. The SPRU (science and technology policy research unit, university of Sussex) reports “Exploiting University Intellectual Property in the UK” (January 2008) and “Disentangling knowledge transfer: Maximising university revenue, or social and economic benefit, or both?” (May 2008) investigated approaches and attitudes to IP exploitation at universities. Most recently Professor Paul Wellings, Vice Chancellor of Lancaster university, has undertaken a review of intellectual property and research benefits, and his report will be finalised very shortly.

Higher Education: Standards

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what steps the Government have taken to improve the quality of higher education since 1997. [225197]

Mr. Lammy: Working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) we have supported the continuing enhancement of high quality teaching and learning in higher education (HE) through the core grant and a range of targeted initiatives.

In 1997 an independent body, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), was established to provide an integrated quality assurance service for UK HE. HEFCE has statutory responsibility for the quality assessment of HE in institutions that it funds, and it contracts with the QAA to fulfil this responsibility and to safeguard the public interest in sound standards of HE qualifications.

In addition to a programme of institutional audit, the QAA defines clear and explicit standards for HE, both for public information and as reference points for their quality assurance services. These include a framework for HE qualifications, subject benchmark statements, programme specifications, and the code of practice in HE.

We have encouraged the HE sector's introduction of the publication of a range of accurate and up to date information about each institution on the website This includes the results of the National Student Survey (NSS) which asks final year students for views on the quality of their teaching and learning experience. The results serve to inform prospective students and promote continuous improvement in institutions. Since it started the NSS has shown a high level of consistency in relation to overall student satisfaction with the quality of their courses— around 80 per cent. from 2005 to 2008.

We have also worked in partnership with the sector to raise the status and profile of teaching in HE through:

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Higher Education: Student Wastage

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent steps the Government have taken to increase completion rates of university degrees. [225198]

Mr. Lammy: We are maintaining very good completion rates for first degrees with the latest statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing that the UK ranks 3rd of the 27 countries reporting data in this area. This has been achieved and maintained during a period when higher education has been opened up to both increased numbers and a greater diversity of students.

However, the Government are not complacent and accept that there is more that we could do, which is why we welcomed the recommendations of the National Audit Office study and the follow-on Public Accounts Committee report on the retention of students in higher education.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England is taking forward these recommendations and working with the higher education sector to disseminate good practice and help higher education institutions learn from what works well elsewhere. HEFCE held regional workshops last spring to examine these issues and they are joint funding seven projects with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation over the next three years to inform better targeting of institutional support for students.

Learning Disability

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent steps the Government have taken to provide support to students who have learning difficulties. [225116]

Mr. Lammy: The Higher Education Funding Council for England provides higher education institutions with funding to support disabled students through the mainstream disability allocation. The Council's overall disability funding allocation for the sector has increased from £7 million in 2000/01 (when it was introduced) to £13 million in 2008/09.

We also provide funding directly to students through disabled students’ allowances (DSAs), which can help to remove the obstacles that prevent disabled students (including students with specific learning difficulties) from entering and completing higher education courses. In 2006/07, the latest year for which figures are available, we provided approximately £81 million to 38,000 students.

From this academic year the non-medical helper's allowance (for undergraduates) and the postgraduate allowance will be increased by around 60 per cent. These increases mean that

DSAs are provided in addition to the standard student support package; they are not means tested and do not have to be repaid.

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Mathematics: General Certificate of Secondary Education

Michael Gove: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what estimate he has made of the number of over 16 year-olds who do not have a grade C or above in mathematics at GCSE or an equivalent qualification. [224565]

Mr. Simon: The Skills for Life survey in 2003 estimated the literacy and numeracy levels and functional ability of adults in England. The Skills for Life survey reported that 13 per cent. of adults aged 16-65 achieved a D-G grade or equivalent in GCSE maths. 42 per cent. have a maths GCSE A*-C grade or equivalent and 45 per cent. do not have a maths qualification at GCSE level.

Students: Loans

Mark Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what proportion of the student loan book has been sold in accordance with the provisions of the Sale of Student Loans Act 2008. [224171]

Mr. Lammy: No sales of income-contingent repayment student loans have yet been made. We are continuing to prepare for the first such sale and are monitoring market conditions accordingly.

International Development

Developing Countries: Underspent Budgets

Mr. Lancaster: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development how his Department treats individual country budgets underspent in a financial year. [225569]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 6 October 2008, Official Report, column 104W, (UIN 224475).

St. Helena: Airports

Bob Russell: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development when a decision will be made on tenders for the construction of an airport on the Island of St. Helena; and if he will make a statement. [225663]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: I expect a decision to be made shortly.


Cemeteries: Lancashire

Janet Anderson: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what representations he has received on topple testing in cemeteries in the borough of Blackburn with Darwen. [222831]

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Mr. Straw: I have received a number of representations in my capacity as Member of Parliament for Blackburn. I therefore understand fully the concerns of my hon. Friend about this matter. My officials are currently working with the Health and Safety Executive and industry stakeholders to clarify what health and safety legislation does and does not require in respect of assessing and dealing with risks presented by unstable gravestones and ensuring proper communication with relatives.

Departmental Data Protection

Mrs. Laing: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many instances of data lost by Government Departments there have been in the last 12 months. [220465]

Mr. Watson: I have been asked to reply.

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by the then Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 25 June 2008, Official Report, column 25-26WS.

Data losses by Government Departments are included in annual reporting for 2007-08 published by Departments.

James Brokenshire: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many notifications (a) his Department and (b) its agencies made to the Information Commissioner following the loss or mishandling of personal information or data in each of the last three years; and what was notified in each case. [222898]

Mr. Wills: The Ministry of Justice has published details of the personal data related incidents notified to the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2007-08 in its resource accounts laid before this House on 21 July 2008.

Before 2007 the Information Commissioner’s Office did not specifically keep records of instances of security breaches. No formal notifications were made.

I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on 25 June 2008, providing the final report on measures for data handling procedures in government.

Departmental ICT

Mr. Garnier: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many encrypted memory sticks have been supplied to (a) prison service staff, (b) National Offender Management Service staff, (c) National Probation Service staff, (d) court and judicial staff and (e) District, Circuit and High Court Judges and Lord Justices of Appeal. [225343]

Mr. Straw: The National Offender Management Service (including the National Probation Service and the Prison Service) has issued guidance to all staff, whether permanent or under contract, that they should only use encrypted memory sticks. Approved procurement arrangements have been put in place to enable staff to purchase suitable devices for their use. The rest of the Ministry of Justice has been instructed not to use non-approved memory sticks.

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Departmental Legislation

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice with reference to the Answer by Lord Hunt of King’s Heath of 7 July 2008, Official Report, House of Lords, column 61WA, on crime: new offences, what the timetable for the assembly of the information is; and if he will place a copy in the Library when it has been prepared. [222196]

Maria Eagle: The information requested involved a manual trawl through primary and subordinate legislation from the past 11 years. I have today placed a copy in the Libraries of the House.

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Departmental Public Relations

James Duddridge: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how much (a) his Department and its predecessors and (b) its agencies spent on each of the external public relations and marketing companies included in the Central Office of Information’s Public Relations Framework in each of the last 36 months. [221965]

Mr. Wills: The following tables show how much the Ministry of Justice and its predecessor, (the Department for Constitutional Affairs) and its agencies has spent in each of the last 36 months through the Central Office of Information’s Public Relations Framework.

Ministry of Justice
Department area 2006-07 (£) 2007-08 (£) 2008-09 (£) PR/marketing company




Four Communications

Her Majesty’s Courts Service


Amazon PR


Good Relations


Four Communications

Office of the Public Guardian


Amazon PR

National Offender Management Service


The Red Consultancy



Fishburn Hedges

Office for Criminal Reform


Good Relations





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