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Government must expand access to higher education – Hodge

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Education and Skills Minister, Margaret Hodge, yesterday reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to widening participation in higher education and announced an expansion of the Summer Schools programme to help more students get to university.

Speaking at the Universities UK Annual Conference in London, Mrs Hodge said:

“This year, over 5,500 young people will get a taste of university life. Summer schools are very effective at giving pupils the opportunity to see first hand the benefits higher education can bring and young people who have attended a summer school are considerably more likely than their peers to go on to university.

“We must help pupils realise the advantages – both for their personal development and for their future employment. Demand for the well qualified and skilled continues to rise, unemployment amongst graduates is half the national average, and graduates working full-time earn 20% more than those with two or more A levels. Our task – in partnership with universities, further education colleges and schools – is to help more people benefit from these advantages.

“We want to have a 50% participation rate for the under 30s by 2010. One barrier for many potential students is the desire to get into the employment market. From this autumn, new foundation degrees will be available that will allow students to combine work and study. This will help many more students enter higher education.

“I am pleased to announce today that we will be spending a further £250,000 this year on new university summer schools – especially for students at FE colleges – at Bath, Derby, Liverpool John Moores, Surrey, Lancaster and Imperial. This is a joint venture with the Sutton Trust which is generously making a financial donation of £50,000. It is a reflection of the need to make quick improvements in the current rate of progression into higher education from FE colleges.

“My key priority over the coming months is how best we can further widen access by breaking down the barriers to opportunity that currently prevents some young people from going to university. That needs to be done while nurturing and promoting quality. I want to listen to all the stakeholders to get a rounded view of how best to achieve this while building on the excellence and diversity within the sector.”

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