University Alliance has responded to the governments proposed reforms to higher technical education in England.
The proposals are intended to ensure current and future higher technical qualifications are high quality and relevant to employers, ideally enhancing their prestige and popularity with students.
The government’s vision is that, in the future, Level 4 and 5 qualifications will need to be approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE) as meeting employer-led occupational standards. They will then receive a kite mark (or some form of official recognition) if they are delivered by providers who meet new technical ongoing registration conditions set by the Office for Students (OfS). Students undertaking these recognised higher technical qualifications will be eligible for the same tuition fee support, teaching grant and equivalent maintenance support as level 6 qualifications. Although proposals on funding incentives are dependent on the outcomes of the Post-18 Funding Review.
University Alliance members are some of the largest providers of HTQs in England and Wales. Three of our members are also partners in new Institutes of Technology.
Key points from our response:
- The proposed aims of HTQs do not mention progression to further study. In addition to having confidence that qualifications are recognised by employers, we would like to see progression to further study included. Students should be confident that HTQs are understood across the education system and progression routes to higher levels of taught and apprenticeship provision exist, whether immediately upon completion of an HTQ or later in life. HTQs will not be seen as a high quality, prestigious route if they do not have this progression and transferability built in from the outset.
- There will need to be a concerted effort to ensure the proposed IFATE approval process will be “streamlined, straightforward and timely”. Better transparency on decision-making and communication throughout the process will be needed to help build confidence.
- Various flexibilities should be built into the IFATE approval process alongside the existing occupational standards, including options for additional content, broader qualifications, smaller and specialised qualifications and flexible learning. For example, it will be important for HEIs to be able to include research, innovation and industry informed content based on anticipated skills needs. This will help future proof qualifications in industries experiencing fast-paced change, in addition to statutory reviews of occupational standards IFATE already conducts.
- We think it is important that there is a level playing field for different types of providers to operate in the HE landscape. However, we also think there should be a proportionate and risk-based approach to regulation. This is not indicated by the proposal to apply new technical ongoing registration conditions.
You can read our full response here.
To discuss our response, please contact Ellie Russell, Deputy Head of Policy firstname.lastname@example.org.