From education to employment

Sector Reaction to the expected consultation on HE minimum entry requirements as part of the Augar review

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There has been a lot of suggestion in the media today that an imminent announcement is due on minimum entry requirements.

The FE, Skills and Employability sector reacts to the expected consultation on the minimum entry requirements, as a part of the Augar review.

In response to today’s announcement by the government on potential reforms to higher education, including potential new minimum entry requirements, Association of Colleges has issued the statement below.

Colleges are a major provider of higher education, with more than two-thirds of colleges offering higher education locally, often to those who had not previously been able to access it.

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges said:

“It’s hard to assess from what has been briefed how this package will impact, but it is highly likely that what the Government hails as the ‘largest increase to the sector in a decade’ will not feel like that for colleges and probably has more to do with a lack of previous investment over the last ten years, than a bumper bonus now.

“There are more than 150 colleges across England offering high quality, employment-focused higher education to adults who would not be able to access it elsewhere. We are very worried that this package of reforms, including minimum entry requirements and caps will hit them the hardest. Our focus when we see the details will be to judge how the complex system of higher education might change, how universities might behave and how that will impact on the ability of colleges to meet the needs of their diverse communities. Adults often enter college HE without a suite of GCSEs or A Levels and go onto good outcomes, including good jobs and promotions; excluding them through a minimum entry requirement would be perverse.

“Our hope is that the package of reforms will herald a ‘reformation of opportunity’ for adults across the country, able to access flexible, part-time and local HE because that’s what the Lifelong Learning Entitlement is meant to do, and that’s what everybody deserves. As ever, the devil will be in the detail, so we look forward to examining the consultation in full when it’s released, with a particular eye on what this means for the 50% of people who currently don’t experience HE.”

Sutton Trust responds to expected announcement on minimum entry requirements, as part of the government’s response to the Augar review

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and Executive Chair of the Sutton Trust, said:

“Universities are the key route to social mobility, so it is crucial that young people who have the potential to benefit from higher education are able to do so, whatever their background. 

“The introduction of any minimum grade requirement is always going to have the biggest impact on the poorest young people, as they are more likely to have lower grades because of the disadvantages they have faced in their schooling.  

“We would like to see young people supported to make good choices about their futures through high quality careers advice, along with providing more high quality alternatives to traditional university study. At present there are far too few higher and degree level apprenticeships, and we need more investment in further education.” 

Johnny Rich and Rae Tooth, Co-chairs of the Fair Access Coalition, respond to today’s reports of the Department for Education’s impending response to the Augar review of post-18 education in England:

“Today’s announcements will only entrench the widening access gap for young people already less likely to attend university. Young people from underrepresented backgrounds are more likely to be negatively affected by the long list of proposed changes to university admissions from minimum entry requirements and student number caps, to the removal of foundation years and the decision to not reintroduce maintenance grants.

“Many of the proposals set out add additional unfair barriers to higher education. We will only achieve fair access for young people from underrepresented backgrounds by making our education system fairer. Any reforms must reduce the number of inequalities embedded within our education system alongside delivering the support these young people need to succeed.”

Commenting on Government plans to block people taking out student loans if they fail maths and English GCSEs, Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, said:

“This has to be carefully thought though to avoid damaging social mobility. If this is implemented crudely it will effectively be closing off university prospects at age three for many poorer children – our research shows the depressingly strong link between achieving poorly in early age tests and failing to get passes in English and maths GCSEs at age 16.

“Children from lowest fifth of family income backgrounds are five times more likely to leave school without passes in English and maths GCSEs basic skills than those from the highest fifth of incomes. We have to ensure that pupils get a second chance to gain basic qualifications.

“We already label a third of pupils taking English and maths GCSEs as failures – this will only condemn them further. What we need is a national school certificate in functional numeracy and literacy skills that all children are expected to pass – alongside GCSEs – enabling pupils to prosper in life whether or not they attend university.

“Advice and guidance for working class students is completely inadequate and many end up taking degrees that may not be worth it. We need to encourage young people to consider non-university options but to do this we have to improve the vocational options on offer.”

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