From education to employment

Universities Minister letter to University Vice Chancellors

Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee

Yesterday (18th January 2023) the Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon has written to university Vice Chancellors, detailing how higher education can drive forward the government’s ambitious skills agenda.

This includes through an expansion of degree apprenticeships, fairer admissions policies that extend to new qualifications such as T Levels, and courses that plug skills gaps and meet the needs of employers.

Universities play a vital role in our society. Inspiring institutions continuously contribute to our community, the economy, employment, skills, and the sum of human knowledge. Having emerged from the social upheaval of the pandemic, we must now look ahead to do everything possible to support the class of 2023’s next steps – whether in university, other types of study, training or employment.

Letter overview snippets:

Skills – T Levels admissions

‘We need to bridge the gaping technical skills gap in this country, so that students leave higher and further education job-ready and able to meet employers’ requirements. High level technical skills equip graduates to find good employment and, in turn, contribute to economic growth.

It is important that those studying T Levels have a clear picture of the opportunities available to them in Higher Education, and any offer to them is fair and transparent. We know that many Higher Education institutions have already assimilated T Levels into their admissions process, and provided a public statement on their entry requirements. However, there remain many instances where students are unsure if they can apply to a course at a university they are interested in, because the entry requirements for T Levels are unclear. This places such students in a difficult and uncertain position, as their UCAS choices naturally hold long-term implications for their future.

Students must be able to access clear and transparent information on the course entry requirements that relate to their qualifications. I am therefore asking you to make a clear statement on your institution’s website, setting out your approach to entry requirements for students with T Levels for 2022 and beyond. This should include details of the entry requirements for relevant courses, so students can easily access correct and transparent admissions information for this UCAS cycle.’

Wider admissions considerations

‘You will already be aware of Ofqual’s announcement of 29 September last year, confirming a return to pre-pandemic grading in 2023. This applies to GCSE, AS and A levels, and the vocational and technical qualifications taken in schools and colleges alongside these qualifications. I know you will already have reflected on this announcement when considering your approach to admissions this year.

Universities are of course used to considering applicants from around the UK, and around the world, with qualifications that are designed and graded in different ways. With regard to the particular nuances of this current academic year, I trust that you will reflect the different approaches taken by regulators across the UK nations in your admissions decisions. This should ensure that students applying from all parts of the country are treated fairly.’

Jobs – Medicine and Dentistry Intakes

‘If your university runs undergraduate medicine and dentistry courses, you will have noted the recent announcements from Ofqual and the Devolved Administrations’ exams regulators. These set out how examinations will work this year and the 2022/23 approach to grading.

Following these announcements, I want to ask you once again to consider and adjust your offer-making strategies accordingly, to ensure there is no risk of your medical and/or dentistry schools being oversubscribed in 2023-24 and beyond. I understand that institutions will take different approaches to admissions decisions. However, I would encourage you to utilise methods used successfully in 2022, such as taking a staggered approach to offermaking.’

Social Justice – Degree Apprenticeships

‘Higher Education must meet the needs of the young people who pay to access it, who rely on it for their future employability and prosperity.

Degree apprenticeships offer all students a route to career progress and allow those from disadvantaged backgrounds to earn, learn and gain a degree without having to pay tuition fees.

I want to see many more degree apprenticeships, delivered by a wider range of universities. Our most prestigious universities should lead by example, building parity of esteem between high-quality technical courses and academic degrees.

To support the continued growth of higher and degree apprenticeships, up to £8 million is available in this financial year to Higher Education providers who want to grow their degree apprenticeships offer. At the same time, our ASK programme is raising awareness in schools and colleges of the benefits of these apprenticeships, so that more pupils consider them as part of their post-18 options.’

Read the full letter here.

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