Reporter 462, 26 February 2001

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Higher education of the Prime Minister's speech of 8 February

By 2010 I want to achieve a university participation rate of over 50 per cent among under-30-year- olds. At present, whereas nearly three-quarters of the children of professional parents go to university, barely 1 in 6 of children of parents in manual occupations do so.

In our first three years we have increased the number of university students by 34,000 full-time equivalents; over the next few years, we aim for over 74,000 more. Next year real-term funding per student will rise for the first time in nearly 15 years.

We now aim to do more. By the next academic year, 50 per cent of students' parents will not pay tuition fees. There will be bursaries of 2000 offered to 25,000 students from poorer backgrounds and an extra 5 per cent funding for students from less privileged neighbourhoods. We are expanding university summer programmes for sixth-formers from state schools to encourage them to apply for university. We have now agreed with 27 universities a programme whereby in exchange for government funding, from this April they will make a special effort to recruit from state schools. There will be no quotas; no lowering of entry standards. It is a strictly meritocratic programme. But its purpose is to say to pupils even in the toughest inner city schools: your background shouldn't hold you back; if you have the ability, you can get the place. We will also encourage students to stay on at school or college with Education Maintenance Allowances paid to students in areas covering 30 per cent of the country.

In addition, we are going within five years to more than double the number of specialist schools to 1500 - four in ten secondary schools. We will offer schools three new specialisms: engineering, science, business and enterprise. The Business and Enterprise schools will develop strong business and entrepreneurial links and encourage many more pupils into business and industry. As well as the big policy announcements there will be a range of other programmes. To help young people accumulate assets early in life that give them a financial base for the future.