maintaining high standards in the quality of degrees and improving
access for bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds were at the
heart of his higher education agenda.
to improve access for bright students from poorer backgrounds, as the
Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals met for their annual
conference at the University of Durham.
Mr Blunkett said that higher education would do well from the
Government's spending review, with total publicly planned funding up
from£5.4bn in 2000-01 to£5.8bn in 2001-02. The final
total additional allocation from the spending review announced in
July for 2001-02, including measures for widening access, is now£132m. This means that for the first time since 1986 funding per
student will rise. Higher education research will also benefit from
an increase in the UK science budget from£1.6bn in 2000-01 to
£1.8bn in 2001-02.
Mr Blunkett confirmed that, following the increase in the parental
contribution threshold for next year, around 50 per cent of students
will be exempt from paying any fees and will also be eligible for the
maximum loan. This is a substantial increase in the proportion of
families who will not have to contribute towards the cost of higher
Mr Blunkett said:
'Higher education has been through many changes over the last three
decades, but there are still two important challenges which must be
'The first is about standards, quality and student numbers. Let me
make it clear: there is no point in a degree if it does not require
hard work, intellectual rigour and breadth of knowledge in order to
achieve it. I know that vice-chancellors share that commitment, but
it is important that employers and the wider public understand it to
be the case too.
'Standards relate to student numbers and our plans for expansion.
There is still demand for places from well-qualified students. But we
must be sure that expansion is in the right areas.
'I want to see more students from schools and colleges who want to
study more vocational subjects. And more students who have spent time
in the workplace and need to improve their qualifications. That's
why we're developing the foundation degree. It's why most new places
are part-time. It's why we have improved financial support for mature
students, including making loans available to part-time students for
the first time.
'It's why we have extended Disabled Students' Allowances to part-time
students and now to postgraduate students, with up to£5,000 of non
means-tested allowance available from this autumn. And it's why our
aim is to increase the proportion of people going to university by
the age of 30 from over 43 per cent now to 50 per cent by the end of
the decade. By addressing expansion in this practical manner, I am
confident that we can maintain and, whereneeds be, improve
'The second issue is about how we get more bright students from
poorer backgrounds to consider going to our leading universities. I
commend the efforts of universities, including Oxford and Cambridge,
over the last two years and hope that they will ensure more suitably
qualified state pupils get the chance to go to university.
'There is still more to do. I am not interested in seeing entry
requirements reduced for courses or some form of patronising positive
discrimination for working class pupils. What I am interested in is
doing more to link universities and schools through Excellence in
Cities and through summer schools and other opportunities to
understand each other better.
'The problem in the past has been as much about teachers not
understanding the requirements of universities or the potential of
their best students, as it has been an assumption in universities
that pupils from inner city comprehensives wouldn't make the grade.
These attitudes are changing on both sides, and the package I am
announcing today will help to foster further change.
'Today's package, 'The Excellence Challenge,' provides£33m in
2001-02, rising to£56m in 2002-03 and£62m in 2003-04. It:
brings universities and colleges into our Excellence in Cities
initiative to provide additional support for young people who have
increases funding to universities and colleges to reach out to more
young people from disadvantaged backgrounds;
provides clearer information and better marketing of the route to
higher education for young people, with a particular focus on
reaching families and communities who do not have a tradition of
going to university, raising expectations for students and teachers
pilots new forms of extra financial help for bright young people
from disadvantaged backgrounds.
'Part of the programme will channel funds directly to universities
and colleges to enable them to recruit more admissions staff, send
ambassadors to schools and colleges and to run more open days and
summer schools for young people and their teachers. For 'high demand'
universities, there will be a 'something for something' package which
will work with funds spent by them to tackle issues of wider access.
'We made difficult choices three years ago on university funding.
Those changes were right - we are now able to see the benefits with
better funding for universities, more money for research, increased
support per student, and money to support rewards for good teaching
'I am also pleased to confirm today that as a result of our review of
income thresholds for payment of fees, around half of university
students will be exempt from the fee from September 2001 and will be
entitled to the full subsidised loan.
'We are also providing more targeted access funds through
universities and colleges to assist young people in considering their
options. From2001/02, Opportunity Bursaries will be piloted in
Excellence in Cities areas, with students from low income families
who have little or no experience of higher education, to encourage
more of them to apply for university. Bursaries of£2,000 each will
be available, paid in instalments over the course, to help meet the
initial costs of starting an HE course, as well as providing
financial confidence to complete it. In addition to the Bursaries, we
will also provide funds to help meet the costs of applying to
University, such as travel and accommodation, where able young people
are attending interviews.
'I hope the university sector will now join with us in examining ways
to gain the maximum value for money from the investment being made,
including carrying forward the proposals in my Greenwich speech
earlier this year and responding to the economic challenge of
innovation and outreach. Much remains to be done on career advice and
positive outcome measures to equip young people for the challenging
world of tomorrow.'
Mr Blunkett also welcomed a Concordat announced by the Committee of
Vice-Chancellors and Principals and the Joint Associations Curriculum
Group: 'I hope that through this agreement schools' colleges and
universities will work together and explore new ways to encourage
young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to participate in higher
education. I am particularly pleased to see the sector aiming to
build young people's confidence to aspire to higher education.,
1. The government's aim is that, by 2010, 50% of young people should
have the opportunity of experiencing Higher Education by the age of
2. On 25 January 2000, the secretary of state announced that the
income threshold at which parents begin to make a contribution would
rise from£17,370 in 1999/00 to£20,000 in 2001/02. He also announced
a package of additional support for mature students, including
bursaries of up to£1,000 and a new school meals grant in 2000/01,
and a Childcare grant from September 2001. Under the
current support arrangements it is estimated that 33% of those
students who are financially dependent on their parents and 85% of
independent students, 44% overall, are assessed to make no
contribution towards fees and are eligible for the maximum loan. The
new policies aimed at widening access should increase the overall
proportion who contribute nothing to 50%. Baroness Blackstone
announced in December 1999 that Disabled Students, Allowances would
be extended to part-time students from September 2000.
The extension to postgraduate students was announced in the secretary
of state's speech to the Association of University Teachers on 10 May
2000. Loans of£500 for part-time students are available
for the first time for those already on or beginning courses from
3. On 18 July, the secretary of state announced increased funding
for higher education in England worth at least #100 million next year
(PN 334/00). This has now been increased to a total of #132m to
support higher education, including measures to widen access. The
#132m consists of #50m for HE pay, #33m for a new access package for
young people (part of the Excellence Challenge), #5m for Foundation
Degree prototypes, and some #14m for e-universities, #15m for
restructuring and collaboration, and #15m for financial support
measures mainly for mature students. Not all of this money will go
direct to higher education institutions: around #15m of the #33m for
the Excellence Challenge will support joint activity by schools,
colleges and universities to raise standards, financial support
measures and a national information campaign; and some of the funding
for financial support for mature students may be channelled through
the student support system.
4. Current assumptions on unit funding per student are that the
real terms increase in 2001-02 will be around 0.5%.
5. Higher education research across the UK benefits from the
Science Budget administered by the Office of Science and Technology
(OST). Part of the budget goes to fund the Research Councils - which
in turn use of much of their funding to support higher education
research. Other parts of the Science Budget also support HE, for
example the new Science Research Investment Fund in 2002-03 and
2003-04, to which OST will contribute #375m for HE infrastructure
alongside #300m from the DfEE. The total science budget is #1638m in
2000-01. The Spending Review settlement announced increases to #1776m
in 2001-02, #1920m in 2002-03, and #2165m in 2003-04.
6. The Excellence Challenge programme will provide universities,
colleges and schools with #151m over three years from 2001 to
increase representation in higher education of talented young people
from more disadvantaged backgrounds. This includes #20m for widening
access measures announced as part of the Spending Review settlement
on 18 July 2000. The #151m includes #8m in each year to allow the
continuation of pilots on summer schools and the enhancement of the
HEFCE poor postcodes premium. It is in addition to #20m previously
set aside for the postcode premium (which covers the extra costs of
recruiting and retaining students from low participation backgrounds)
and #30m over 3 years previously set aside for Opportunity Bursaries.
7. A new Consultation Document, 'The Excellence Challenge' contains
four proposed strands:
Extended Excellence in Cities partnerships - in each of the 47
Excellence in Cities areas, schools will work with colleges and
universities to provide a programme of extra support for able young
people including those in Gifted & Talented programmes.
Action by universities - each higher education institution will
receive support for summer schools, recruitment officers, better
links to schools, FE colleges and sixth forms to improve their
Clearer information for young people - aged 13 and above and their
parents about the costs and benefits of higher education, so that
they have all the facts at an early age.
Individual Financial Support - #4m has been added to the #30m
already earmarked to provide 6,000 Opportunity Bursaries in 2001,
rising to 10,000 new Bursaries in 2003. Payments of #1,000 in the
first year and #500 in subsequent years will help meet costs such as
buying books and equipment, travel and deposits for accommodation.
#3m has been set aside for bonus payments of #100 to be piloted
alongside Educational Maintenance Allowances for year 13 pupils in
some EiC areas, to help towards the costs of applying for University.
8. Media copies of the consultation document are available free
from the DfEE press office on the numbers below. Other copies can be
ordered through DfEE Publications on 0845 602 2260 or by e-mail -
firstname.lastname@example.org quoting reference DFEE 206/2000.
9. At present only 28% of entrants to HE are from disadvantaged
backgrounds (social classes iii-manual, iv and v) a figure which has
changed little during the 1990s (UCAS figures). 65% of those pupils
obtaining 3A grades at A Level in 1999 were from the state sector
(comprehensives, grammar, grant maintained and colleges) compared to
35% from the independent sector. Of those entering Oxford or
Cambridge in 1999 with 30 A Level points, 52% came from the state
sector compared to 48% from the Independent sector (UCAS figures).