Tessa Blackstone said: 'This is good news for students. For the first time, all new students this year will complete the same application form wherever they live in England and Wales.
'Previously, each LEA could use its own form, making the process different in each authority. The new form has received the Plain English Campaign's crystal mark for clarity, so I am confident that students will find the application process straightforward whether they choose to apply online or on paper.
'More and more people are using the internet for a growing range of transactions. This development gives prospective students the same opportunity. The financial help provided by the Government is vital to many students and being able to choose how to apply for that help is a big advantage.
'Over the next few years, we will be streamlining the financial support process so that students get a much better service than in the past. The internet will play a vital part in achieving this. Today's launch of an on-line service for 2001 starters is an important step along the way.'
To complement the standard application form, the DfEE has published its annual guide to the financial help available for higher education students. This comprehensive booklet, for new and continuing students, has also received a crystal mark for clarity from the Plain English Campaign. The text can also be found online.
Tessa Blackstone said: 'It is important that people thinking of going into higher education have the best possible information about what help is available to
'The booklet offers this. For example, 50% of students will not pay any tuition fees in 2001/02 and will be entitled to the maximum loan available. By reading the booklet, prospective students and their families will get a good idea whether they are eligible for this help.'
The booklet sets out the range of financial help available to students in 2001/2002 and how to apply for it. It includes the loan, grant and fee rates for 2001/2002. These are 2.4% higher than in 2000/2001 in line with forecast price increases.
The booklet also includes details of the help available for mature students, including the new childcare grant that ministers announced last December.
This notice applies to England & Wales.
1. The on-line student support form has been developed for DfEE by iMPOWER Plc.
2. The form and financial guide can be found at the DfEE's website, www.dfee.gov.uk/studentsupportalongside a range of information about the financial help available to students.
3. Paper copies of the application form (code HE1) and copies of the booklet, Financial support for higher education students in 2001/2002, are available from local education authorities in England and Wales.
The booklet is also available from the DfEE's freephone information line on 0800 731 9133, from which callers can also obtain Braille, audio-cassette and Welsh language versions of the booklet.
4. Details about further help for students with dependants and other students in need can be found in DfEE Press Notice 2000/030. Some full-time students who are parents, especially lone parents, experience financial hardship.
In 2001/02 we are introducing a new childcare grant based on actual costs, which will replace the existing lone parents' grant. In addition we have already increased funds to encourage more participation in higher education - and will be doing more in 2001/02 when we bring in opportunity bursaries as part of our Excellence Challenge. We are also providing£15m more next year for further targeted support for mature students with dependants.