From education to employment

I want to see universities end their preoccupation with three-year degrees and offer far more higher technical qualifications and apprenticeships

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson

A system of higher technical education

In order to create a fairer, more prosperous and more productive country, we need to reverse the generational decline in higher technical education.

We have already announced that, over the next few years, we will be establishing a system of higher technical education where learners and employers can have confidence in high-quality courses that provide the skills they need to succeed in the workplace, whether they are taught in a further education college, a university or an independent training provider.

Of course, a large proportion of this will be delivered in our great further education colleges, but what I also want to see is for universities to end their preoccupation with three-year bachelors’ degrees and offer far more higher technical qualifications and apprenticeships. These would be more occupation focused and provide a better targeted route for some students, and benefit employers and the economy.

Universities and other higher education providers are already an important part of this market, but I want to see their technical offer expand.

Only 10% of all adults aged 18-65 hold a higher technical qualification as their highest qualification, compared to around 20% of adults in Germany and as much as 34% in Canada.

And, as a nation, we must be honest that have gone backwards here. Well over 100,000 people were doing Higher National Certificates and Diplomas in the year 2000; that has reduced to fewer than 35,000. And within Higher Education Institutes, total participants in foundation degrees have declined from a high of 81,000 (in 2009/10), to approximately 30,000 (28,760 in 2018/19).

Yet the economic case for studying these qualifications is inarguable. I want to capitalise on the potential of further and higher education providers to deliver excellent higher technical education and apprenticeships.

My vision is for a system which learners and employers have true confidence in for providing the skills they need to succeed.

As I set out in my Further Education speech on 9th July 2020, we will not see growth in the economy if universities do not play their part. And of course, they will play their part, as they have always done. I believe the join up with Further Education through increased flexibility so that study fits with the needs of students with busy lives, is key in ensuring these two sectors work cohesively together.

While good work has already been done, I am motivated to see us go further to achieving excellence. But, knowing that our providers and institutions are fantastically placed to deliver on these aims, gives me full confidence in our collective ability.

And I want to say here today, to each and every institution, you are part of the solution. I hope each of you recognise your value and will work with me to achieve these ambitions.

Gavin Williamson, Education Secretary 

Speaking to Universities UK members yesterday (10 Sept) Gavin Williamson told vice-chancellors about his aims for higher education, which included details about an increaslingly collaborative system of higher technical education.

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