The education system received a boost with an extra £12bn in spending over the next four years. The funding, which amounts to an annual growth rate of 6.6%, will largely be used to help schools increase the number of 14-year-olds reaching required performance levels in English, maths, science and information technology. An extra £100m will be allocated to universities as part of the government’s plan to put half of all 18-30-year-olds through higher education. The university sector received another £20m to widen access and a £50m recruitment fund to combat the brain drain to the US. Foundation degrees and the proposed e-university also received extra funding, and industry skills shortages will be targeted, with more spending on skill-based training.

Business support

England’s regional development agencies will see their budgets increase by £500m by 2003-4. The eight RDAs, which were established last year, will each see a 50% rise in their first-year budgets. A series of regional enterprise zones will be established, and the recently introduced Small Business Service will receive an additional £190m grant to be spread over three years. A special internet service offering business advice will be set up to encourage more e-commerce companies to be established in Britain.

Science and technology

Research funding will rise from £1.6bn to £1.9bn in 2003-4 as part of the government’s pledge to double its investment in scientific, engineering and medical research within 10 years. The £1bn infrastructure fund, announced two weeks ago, will go towards funding new equipment and laboratories, while £100m will be spent on bringing universities and industry together to commercialise research.