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9 July 2008 : Column 1715W—continued

Higher Education: Admissions

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) what information his Department holds on the number of 18-year-olds with (a) an academic and (b) a vocational Level 3 qualification who did not enter higher education by the age of 19 years who moved on to (i) jobs without training, (ii) jobs with training, (iii) jobs with apprenticeships, (iv) full-time education at Level 3 or below, (v) unemployment and (vi) economic inactivity in the latest period for which figures are available; [216927]

(2) what proportion of 18-year-olds with (a) academic and (b) vocational Level 3 qualifications entered (i) full-time higher education and (ii) part-time higher education by the age of 19 years in the latest period for which figures are available. [216928]

Bill Rammell: The proportion of maintained school pupils who gained one or more GCE A-levels in 2003/04, who entered a full-time higher education course at a UK higher education institution aged 18 in 2004/05 or aged 19 in 2005/06, was 73.9 per cent. The proportion who entered a part-time course was 1.6 per cent.

The proportion of maintained school pupils who took one or more VCE A-levels in 2003/04, who entered a full-time higher education course at a UK higher education institution aged 18 in 2004/05 or aged 19 in 2005/06, was 55.3 per cent. The proportion who entered a part-time course was 1.9 per cent.

Information on the employment status of those pupils with level 3 qualifications who do not go to higher education is not currently available.

Higher Education: Medicine

Mr. Clappison: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills pursuant to the answer of 11 June 2008, Official Report, column 321W, on higher education: medicine, which university medical schools are participating in widening participation schemes; what financial provision has been extended to them by the Government in respect of such schemes; what criteria or guidance has been laid down by the Government for such schemes; and how many students entered foundation years prior to undertaking medical degrees as a result of such schemes in the latest period for which figures are available, broken down by university. [217156]

Bill Rammell: The Government are determined to widen participation so that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education has the opportunity to do so. The main scheme for widening participation is Aimhigher which aims to raise the attainment levels of young people, their aspirations towards university and improve progression. Most activities are not subject-specific, although some activities are designed to raise awareness of and encourage progression to specific subjects such as medicine.


9 July 2008 : Column 1716W

The total Aimhigher budget is £85 million in 2008-09. Guidance for Aimhigher Partnerships was published in February 2008 and is available on the Aimhigher website at:

Several medical schools run schemes to encourage applications from bright students from disadvantaged or non-traditional backgrounds. These are entirely a matter for the individual medical school—no specific Government funding or guidance is provided for these schemes, and data on admissions, including foundation years, are not collected centrally.

Students: Loans

Harry Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what the reasons are for using the retail price index to calculate interest due on student loans; and if he will consider the use of the consumer price index instead. [214778]

Bill Rammell: Parliament determined the interest rate to be paid on student loans. The principle is that borrowers should repay the same amount, in real terms, as they borrowed. To achieve this, the rate of interest is based upon the retail price index (RPI), although the precise method for determining the rate of interest varies depending on the type of loan.

The interest rate for older ‘mortgage style’ (MS) loans is determined in accordance with the Education (Student Loans) Regulations 1998 which prescribe the rate of interest to be equal to the RPI so long as that index is published. This basis for calculating the interest rate is also set out in the MS Loan Consumer Credit Act agreements, the key terms of which cannot be altered retrospectively.

From 1998/99, income contingent repayment (ICR) loans replaced MS loans for new borrowers. These are ‘low interest loans’ exempt under section 16(5) (b) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. Borrowers only repay when they earn more than £15,000 a year, at an affordable rate of 9 per cent. of earnings above this threshold. Interest is calculated in accordance with the Education (Student Support) Regulations 2007, as amended, and is the lower of March’s RPI or 1 per cent. above the highest of the base rates published by the banks listed in Regulation 4 of the Consumer Credit (Exempt Agreements) Order 1989.

Accordingly, there is potential for the interest rates for the two types of loans to differ but, to date, the RPI rate has consistently applied to both types of loans since their inception.

The Government have no plans to abandon the consistent use of RPI in calculating interest on student loans. There is no single measure of inflation that is appropriate for all purposes. RPI is an index that is still widely used as the basis for uprating a range of state benefits and entitlements. Over time, it is a measure of inflation which is fair, both to taxpayers, and to student loans borrowers. The cost of providing student loans is already heavily subsidised by the taxpayer, enabling the average interest rate on student loans, to date, to be below 3 per cent. per annum—significantly lower than for commercial loans.


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Vocational Education: Finance

Stephen Williams: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (1) what the planned level of expenditure on sector compacts for (a) engineering, (b) construction, (c) hospitality and (d) process manufacturing is for (i) 2008-09, (ii) 2009-10 and (iii) 2010-11; [216889]

(2) what the estimated level of planned expenditure on sector compacts for (a) engineering, (b) construction, (c) hospitality and (d) process manufacturing will be as a proportion of Train to Gain funding in (i) 2008-09, (ii) 2009-10 and (iii) 2010-11; [216890]

(3) what additional sector compacts he expects to be agreed in the next 12 months. [216891]

Mr. Lammy: Sector compacts are a ‘something for something’ deal between Government and employers to drive up the skills of the work force in each sector to ensure that our nation has the world class skills it needs to meet the challenges of the global economy. In return for some flexibility in, and enhancement to, the core Train to Gain offer, the employers in each sector commit to increasing their engagement with Train to Gain and their investment in the skills of their work force.

Of a total Train to Gain budget of approximately £2.5 billion over the three year period 2008-09 to 2010-11, the planned level of Train to Gain expenditure through compacts for:

We are now working to realise these compacts through Train to Gain; the profile of spend over the coming years will depend on the rate at which employers come forward to take up the enhanced offer we are making available in Train to Gain through compacts. The LSC are currently working with each SSC concerned to develop spend profiles, which may run beyond the period to 2010-11.

It is important to note that some of the commitments agreed in compacts, such as the cost of additional apprenticeship places, will not be funded through Train to Gain directly but will draw on other, existing budgets. Our aim is to agree compacts for every SSC sector that wants one, and who can deliver a significant increase in demand for skills from employers to ensure that we are addressing the nation’s skills needs. We will also explore the potential for developing compacts with key partners around large cross-sector projects such as the London 2012 Olympics.

Vocational Training: Equality

Mr. Hayes: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what his policy is on the promotion of equality in skills learning in sectors where one sex has traditionally been under-represented; and to which career sectors this policy has been applied. [216647]


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Mr. Lammy: The then Department for Education and Skills, published its first Gender Equality Scheme (GES) in May 2007 setting out positive steps to promote gender equality. Work is now in hand to develop a Single Equality Scheme for DIUS, for publication in 2008.

Our overall approach to promoting equality in skills learning is to develop our understanding of participation and attainment rates across different groups of learners and to develop a targeted strategy to better engage those groups under-represented. In addition we seek to assess the impact of all our new policies on different groups, including gender, in order to address any areas of under-representation.

As Minister for Skills I announced on 7 March that £5 million per year was being made available to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to continue the Women and Work Sector Pathways Initiative for the next three years. The intention is to help up to 5,000 women each year. We are focussing on sectors, sub-sectors and occupations where there are specific skills gaps and shortages and under-representation of women.

The UK Commission is contracting in 2008-09 with five Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) which have ran projects in previous years to maintain the momentum of this work. The UK Commission has also issued a Prospectus requesting expressions of interest from all the other SSCs.

The continuing SSC projects cover the following sectors:

In ‘World-class Apprenticeships’ we committed to look at how we can address inequalities including the gender disparity that exists primarily in the ‘traditional’ Apprenticeship sectors. For example, in 2006-07 only 1 per cent. of construction and 4 per cent. of engineering Apprenticeship starts were women, compared to over 90 per cent. of people starting Apprenticeships in the care and hair and beauty sectors. Some of the practical measures we planned include:

and LSC contractual minimum pay requirements to be fully enforced pending a future investigation of apprenticeship wages by the Low Pay Commission.

International Development

Africa

Mr. Hague: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what offices his Department has in each African country; and how many staff work in each office. [216293]


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Gillian Merron: The Department for International Development has offices in 20 countries in Africa, with a total of 593 staff, made up of 206 UK home civil servants and 387 local staff employed on SAIC (staff appointed in country) terms, located as follows:

DFID offices and staff in Africa
Country UK staff Local staff Total

Burundi

3

3

6

DRC

17

27

44

Ethiopia

17

34

51

Ghana

9

21

30

Kenya

13

37

50

Malawi

14

33

47

Mozambique

10

22

32

Nigeria

27

45

72

Rwanda

11

16

27

Sierra Leone

11

19

30

South Africa

12

21

33

Sudan

21

11

32

Tanzania

9

21

30

Uganda

12

29

41

Zambia

10

22

32

Zimbabwe

6

22

28


DFID staff are based in FCO posts or other locations in the following countries
Country UK staff Local staff Total

Angola

1

1

2

Gambia

1

3

4

Lesotho

1

0

1

Liberia

1

0

1

Totals

206

387

593


There are four offices in Nigeria, in Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Enugu. There are two offices in Sudan, in Khartoum and in Juba, which is a joint-donor operation.


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