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Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:

'We welcome this thorough and wide-ranging report and the emphasis it places on sustaining the vision of the skills agenda. We support the view of the committee that the response from universities and colleges should be tailored and sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of businesses and employees in a time of economic upheaval.

'Understandably the committee is concerned about the sustainability of co-funded higher education courses. Our experience to date is that employers are still strongly supporting the programme, and the number of employer co-funded places now stands at more than 10,000 for this year, which is well ahead of our target of 5,000 entrants. At least a third of higher education institutions are now involved in the delivery of employer co-funded workforce development.

'We will continue to work in partnership to enable higher education to make a still greater contribution to regional and sub-regional priorities.

'We also welcome the re-statement of the importance of STEM subjects and look forward to reporting further progress this year following the publication of our 2008 report last October. This demonstrated that HEFCE's £350 million programme was making a significant contribution to reversing the decline in the numbers of students studying STEM subjects.'


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