Monday, June 27, 2005

Government will continue to pick up full university bill

Dr Linares reassures House

Gibraltar students in Britain will continue to enjoy full funding of their studies despite changes being made in Britain affecting EU Sudents.

This was announced in the House of Assembly by Dr Bernard Linares, the Education, Training and Employment Minister.

The British Government intends to introduce in September 2006 variable tuition fees to be charged by UK universities of up to £3000 yearly as opposed to the present standard fee of £1250.

In order to comply with EU legislation, the UK education authority, the DfES, is making plans to include EU students. This will include Gibraltarian students in the same arrangements as for UK students once these variable fees are introduced in September 2006.

Dr Linares explained that these arrangements will afford loans to students repayable once the student has finished the course and is earning £15,000 or the equivalent in his/her country’s currency (the idea of using a percentage of average earnings in the student’s country has now been discarded).

Responsibility for collecting on these loans has been passed to a ‘Student Loans Company’ which is to be created for the purpose of administering the loans system.

As announced last year the Gibraltar Government intends to continue as at present to fund all tuition fees itself and not pass the financial burden on to students. However, Dr Linares said that he is presently considering how this can be achieved while still taking advantage of the UK student loan scheme with the Government assuming all repayment obligations.

Every year about 40% of our annual intake gain access to higher education. This he said is proof of Gibraltar’ success in preparing its pupils throughout their school career for public examinations.

In 2004, the GCSE pass rate (A* to C Grades) was 72% (68% in Bayside, 77% in Westside); A/S level pass rate was 91% (84% in Bayside, 96% in Westside); A level pass rate was 97.8% (97% in Bayside, 98% in Westside).

The number of students in UK universities and colleges this academic year as at the end of May is 496.

The cost of tuition fees paid this past financial year by the Government is £686,139.76. That is over £100,000 more than last year.

Dr Linares reminded that since September last year, the Government has been awarding full maintenance grants to all holders of educational awards having abolished the previous system of parental contributions.

Challenge

Dr Linares reiterated that the toughest challenge for secondary teachers and Gibraltar’s education system in the years to come will be the adoption locally of the wide-ranging reforms envisaged in the UK for the age range 14-19.

The White Paper on this proposes the following:

Renewed emphasis on the basics throughout the secondary school phase, putting English and Maths at the heart of new general GCSE Diplomas.

Set out a full range of GCSEs, A levels and 14 specialised Diplomas which will replace the current 3500 separate qualifications and provide alternative gateways to higher education and skilled employment.

Employers will lead in the design of these Diplomas and institutions of higher education will also have an important role to play.

Stretch all young people and help universities to differentiate between the best candidates.

Re-motivate disengaged learners giving them extra support to master the basics and benefit from a new programme based on Entry to Employment.

Pupil - Teacher Ratios

The total complement of teachers on a permanent and pensionable status is currently 308, as opposed to 288 when the GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) came into office in 1996, said Dr Linares.

He said that the average teacher/pupil ratios in our schools are well above levels in UK. In first schools the average locally is 1 to 15.94 (the agreed median with the Union for class sizes is 1 to 20); in middle schools the average is 1 to 18.57 (the agreement with the Union for class sizes is 1 to 25); in secondary schools the average is 1 to 15.3.

Training

Schemes and courses currently available through the Training Unit of the Department of Education and Training include: maritime qualification, Diploma in Business Administration, Accountancy Training, Management Training, Construction training, the Engineering Trades Training Scheme, the Vocational Training Scheme, the School of Tourism and Customer Care Courses and ISO Accreditation.

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