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Monday, March 8, 1999 Published at 13:42 GMT


Blair wants student boom

Plans are afoot to increase college and university places

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is planning a massive expansion of universities and colleges over the next eight years.

Mr Blair wants at least 50% of all people under the age of 30 to take part in higher education, according to a report from The Guardian newspaper.

[ image: Tony Blair put education at heart of New Labour's election manifesto]
Tony Blair put education at heart of New Labour's election manifesto
Most of the new places would be on part-time courses, so students could learn at the same time as working or looking after a family.

A Department for Education spokesman confirmed there were plans under way to look at how to achieve a large-scale expansion of college and university places.

The figure of 50% would include part-time students and flexible courses, said the spokesman.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, has already set a target of 35% of 18 to 21-year-olds studying in higher education by 2002.

A more ambitious target would be likely to become part of the government's promises for a second term in office.

Expansion plans

Last week the Higher Education Funding Council for England announced this year's university funding settlement, which included an extra £95m to help widen access to degree courses to students from poorer families.

The overall funding package of £4.21bn included money for an additional 45,000 students.

In November last year Mr Blunkett announced a £725m increase in spending on England's further education colleges.

The new money would be spent over two years on improving the training of managers and lecturers, modernising equipment and buildings, and widening participation in further education.

Mr Blunkett also unveiled an £183m package of measures to support some of the four million further education students in England over the next two years, including an expansion of hardship funds and help with travel and childcare costs.

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