Government Adds 10,000 Higher Education Places

(Reuters) – THE GOVERNMENT SAID TODAY that it would make an extra 10,000 higher education places available this year, and would cut the length of time students can offset the repayment of their education loans to help foot the bill.

Support costs for extra places in courses such as science, technology, engineering and maths will be paid for by the state, but the government said there would be no impact on the public finances because the funding will come from existing budgets.

The optional five-year repayment holiday announced in 2007, which lets students offset their degree loans, will be reduced to two years.

Universities will not be given any additional teaching grants.

‘It is for universities to manage their own admissions and we are confident that many will want to offer higher quality places to students on this basis,’ business minister Peter Mandelson said in a statement.

‘Our expansion of higher education is more important now than ever before, as we continue to invest in developing a highly skilled workforce that is well placed to win the jobs the future economy will offer.’

There are more than two million higher education students in Britain and more than 50,000 courses.

Lobby group Universities UK welcomed the additional places but cautioned against favouring certain types of degree at the expense of others.

‘We understand the thinking behind tying the student support to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) agenda at the current time,’ said Diana Warwick, Chief Executive of Universities UK. ‘However, we would be concerned if this were, in future, to have a negative impact on areas such as the social sciences, arts and humanities.’

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