Featured Voices

John Widdowson, Former College Principal

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active


The forthcoming white paper presents a once in a generation opportunity to introduce a world class technical education and training system, supporting both young people and adults to build successful careers, whilst at the same time providing the higher technical skills demanded by industry and business.

A Post-16 System Dominated by Full-Time Level 6 Bachelor’s Degrees by age 25

For too long, too many young people have made the wrong choices at 16 and 18, deciding to study for qualifications which do not open the doors to the jobs and careers they want. This can lead to disappointment, disillusion and debt.

For too many young people, higher education presents a one size fits all approach in which the only valued and acceptable form is a full-time three-year bachelor’s degree in an academic discipline, preferably studied away from home. In many cases these courses do not have a clear line of sight to employment and fail to develop the skills and knowledge needed in a modern economy.

The stranglehold of the three-year full-time degree has resulted in a steep decline in the take up of short cycle HE. Usually those courses take up to two years to complete, including Higher Nationals and Foundation degrees. Both are aimed specifically at developing higher level skills, especially in STEM and other vocational disciplines and yet numbers studying for such awards have dropped significantly over the last decade.

It cannot be a coincidence that most students studying for higher skills qualifications at Level 5 do so in Further Education colleges, whilst even universities with an apparent vocational or technical focus only offer traditional Honours degrees.

The response to the Coronavirus crisis has shown the ability of some institutions to respond. That experience should not be lost, but embedded at the heart of the reformed system.

An Alternative Level 4-5 Higher Technical Education Pathway 

The highly anticipated reforms must provide a launchpad for a more diverse, wellstructured system of Higher Technical Education, ending the tyranny of the bachelor’s degree and restoring the confidence of students and employers that higher technical qualifications are an investment, not a cost.

Such a system must have a number of defining characteristics. Employers (and the professional bodies whose qualifications often provide a much sought-after licence to practice) must be closely involved in determining the content of the new curriculum.

The employer voice in setting standards should be equally strong, balancing traditional academic skills with those needed in business, industry and the professions. Imaginative curriculum design can produce a modular or unitised model which allows learning to take place when the leaner needs it, unconstrained by the restrictions of outdated concepts of the academic year and making full use of digital learning.

Given the current uncertainty about jobs, including apprenticeships, the boundaries between full and part time forms of study must be reduced, allowing movement between different modes as the economy recovers and opportunities grow.

Level 4-5 higher technical education courses should be based on a truly modular design which allows credit accumulation and transfer and a pattern of delivery which reflects employer demand to upskill current employees.

The reform of technical qualifications at Level 3 exemplified by the introduction of T levels gives an opportunity to young people to make career driven choices at 16 and will signpost high quality progression routes, valued by employers and chosen by more students.

Three Reforms for the White Paper

  1. First, the white paper should commit resources for a sustained programme of careers advice and guidance, promoting the value of technical qualifications at Level 4-5 to young people, parents, teachers and employers. Without this, it is likely that the continued marketing efforts of three-year degrees by Higher Education Institutes – primarily universities – will continue to distort the market and perpetuate the poor decisions made by many young people.
  2. Second, the white paper should set in train a process for every university and FE college to review their role and mission. The aim must be to continue the direction of travel set out for Institutes of Technology, but with greater ambition, using Higher Technical Education as the catalyst to transform existing institutions and where this proves impossible, create new ones.
  3. And third, the white paper must outline a comprehensive system of financial incentives to support the development of large-scale Level 4-5 higher technical education system in England. Providers need adequate capital investment and preferential funding for the delivery of targeted Level 4-5 vocational courses. And employers should receive financial support to release professional staff to work with delivery partners.

John Widdowson, Former College Principal

'Revolutionary Forces'

In the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget that there were wider revolutionary forces at work on the UK’s economy before the virus outbreak.

Issues such as Brexit, the rise of automation in the workplace, longer working lives, and poor UK productivity have brought into even sharper focus, education and skills. NCFE and Campaign for Learning (CfL), published the first in the series of ‘Revolutionary Forces’ discussion papers on 6 July 2020.

In this Revolutionary Forces series different perspectives and proposed reforms for the post-16 education and training system have been brought together in one pamphlet, from expert stakeholders, think-tanks and educational professionals.

Building on the recommendations outlined in the first paper for flexible reforms that support economic and social renewal, this new paper, "Reforms for a Revolutionary Post-16 White Paper", takes a deeper look at which areas need to be addressed.

The authors are:

Sponsored Video


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Is a 'love of learning' far from common among tutors/students,
and (Love being blind, madness, a...

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 2 days ago

Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers – Refresh 2021

Overview It has been nearly two years since the ESFA refreshed the current Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers, therefore it is time for...

  • Thursday, 14 October 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page