From education to employment

Chancellor increases spending by £2 billion

Spending on higher education and skills received a £2 billion boost under plans announced by the chancellor yesterday.

In his pre-budget report, Alistair Darling announced increased spending by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) on higher education and skills by 2 per cent a year from £14.2 billion in 2007-08 to £16.4 billion by 2010-11.

Under pre-budget proposals, the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) will allow for a significant rise in the number of adults gaining qualifications at all levels between 2008 and 2011. It is also expected to enable an expansion of the employer-led Train to Gain programme, taking expected investment to more than £900 million a year by 2010-11.

Sue Dutton, Association of Colleges Acting Chief Executive, said: “The ambitions set out in the CSR build on already strong foundations within the school system and the targets are realistic, achievable and right for young people. The Government’s reconfirmed commitment to apprenticeships and the post-Leitch skills agenda is also warmly welcomed by colleges, through whom half of all vocational qualifications are awarded.”

According to the DIUS, the 2007 CSR will allow the department to make real progress against the Leitch ambitions for world-class skills and deliver the workforce Britain needs to prosper in an increasingly competitive global economy.

John Denham, the Secretary of State for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said: “DIUS exists to enable adults to develop their skills and knowledge to the full extent of their ability; to deliver world class research and scholarship; and to ensure we make the full use of that research in making Britain the best place in the world to build an innovative business. This settlement enables us to make real progress in each of these areas. In doing so we will build a strong economy and a cohesive society that can meet the global challenges of the 21st century.”

However, the University and College Union (UCU) warned that unless the government commits itself to at least matching the spending on further and higher education of competitor countries that the UK risks being left behind.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “It is of course encouraging that the chancellor set out his support for education in his statement today. However, we need clear commitments from government for greater public investment in post-school education. All politicians tell us that education is a priority but rhetoric alone cannot support our universities and colleges.”

Matthew Sharp

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