Although there is a shortage of IT students, it is unlikely that funding will be restored for IT training, the minister for higher education, Bill Rammell, has told a select committee inquiry.
Rammell was speaking at the Department of Innovation, Universities and Skills select committee inquiry held at the House of Commons on January 17. The committee was looking into why funding is being cut for students taking qualifications that are equivalent to or lower than any they already hold. Once the policy is in place, graduates will be unable to get government funding for a course that is worth less than a degree.
This will cause problems for IT staff wishing to up-skill and retrain - especially for women returning to work after having children - and for non-IT graduates who want to go into the profession and need to take the appropriate courses.
The policy was announced last December and the higher education sector says it has been rushed through with little consultation. Under the new rules, the burden will fall more heavily on employers to fund training.
Several subjects, including medicine and Islamic studies, are exempt from the policy, because they are viewed as both strategically important and vulnerable. IT has not been included in this list of exemptions.
Rammell confirmed at the enquiry hearing that IT would be subject to the new rules, but conceded there would be an annual review of the exempt subjects.
He said, "The analysis that there is a great shortage of IT students is correct, although relatively recent. Two years ago there was not a problem.
"There would be a problem if, at every juncture, we were changing these subjects on the list. I am not persuaded at the moment in respect of IT, but I am saying we should conduct an annual review."
Karen Price, chief executive of IT sector skills council E-Skills UK, said, "Technology is the engine of the UK economy. It underpins the productivity of all business. The demand for people to fulfil those roles is going to continue to grow. If we are not attracting the quality and quantity of students we need it is a highly vulnerable subject."