We want everyone to be able to access high quality education and training. We have reformed higher education funding to put universities on a sustainable footing and to improve the incentives to deliver an excellent student experience. We are delivering record numbers of apprenticeships. And we are reforming further education to improve the quality of teaching and ensure more people can participate.

The bigger picture

David Willetts• We are reducing the burden of higher education on ordinary taxpayers, and ensuring well-paid graduates contribute more when they can afford to, while protecting low earners through a more progressive student loan repayment system.

• We are breaking down the last government's stringent student number controls, allowing more students to go to their first choice university and enabling institutions to expand as they see fit. We want the best match between students and institutions so are delivering massive improvements in the information available to applicants about each course.

• We are delivering a revolution in apprenticeships with more apprentices than ever before earning and learning at the same time.

Reforming Higher Education funding

Action to date

• We have reformed higher education funding to rebalance the burden away from ordinary taxpayers to those who benefit the most from higher education. Our reforms have placed universities on a sustainable financial footing for years to come, while also protecting the number of places.

• Our new student finance regime is 'substantially more progressive' than the scheme we inherited, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

• No eligible student has to pay their tuition costs up front and we extended the tuition loan system to part-time students.

• We have increased maintenance support, including the non-repayable maintenance grant for students from low-income households.

• Graduates do not have to pay anything back until they are earning over £21,000 a year.

• Graduates earning over £21,000 will pay back £45 less per month than they do at the moment.

• The poorest 30 per cent of graduates will be better off under the new system.

Planned actions

• Unlike the last government, we will increase the £21,000 earning threshold in line with earnings so that less well-off graduates will not be dragged into contributing more than they can afford.

• We will make sure that graduates who can’t pay back their full contribution, perhaps because they are unemployed or because they are not earning enough, are protected. All outstanding payments will be written off after 30 years.

Supporting poorer students

Action to date

• We have increased maintenance support for disadvantaged students while they are studying.

• We have ensured universities substantially increase the support they offer disadvantaged students.

• We have introduced the National Scholarship Programme.

Ensuring more students get to their first choice university

Action to date

• We have relaxed student number controls so that more young people can get to their first choice university.

• In 2012, universities were able to recruit as many students as they liked with AAB or better at A-Level.

• Through our core-and-margin model, we have facilitated higher education study in local further education colleges, improving access to higher education.

Planned actions

• Next year, we will further relax student number controls so that universities can recruit as many students as they like with ABB or better at A-Level.

Rejuvenating Apprenticeships

Action to date

• We have already achieved a 63 per cent increase in the number of people starting an apprenticeship. Thanks to our investment, 457,000 people started an apprenticeship last year, 177,000 more than the year before.

• We are offering employers with 50 employees or fewer up to £1,500 for taking on an apprentice aged between 16 and 24.

• We have changed the rules so that all apprentices will be educated up to the standard of a 'C' grade at GCSE in English and Maths.

Planned actions

• By the end of this parliament, we will have funded 250,000 more apprenticeships than Labour planned.

• We have established a £25 million Higher Apprenticeships Fund to support up to 10,000 degree-level apprenticeships in areas such as aerospace and renewable energy technologies in the coming years.

Freeing colleges from government interference

Action to date

• Through our Education Act 2011, we have reduced bureaucratic requirements on colleges so that they can spend less time filling out forms and more time teaching.

Planned actions

• From September 2013, FE learners aged 24 and above, studying at Level 3 and above, will have access to loans to pay for education and training, including Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships.

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