Incentivising even closer working between universities, colleges, and employers would bring significant benefits to our economy.
According to a new report – Routes to high-level skills – published today [8 Oct] by Universities UK, policymakers should look to build on existing partnerships to give more students the skills they and employers need.
Around 41% of courses currently offered by universities have a technical, professional or vocational focus. A series of case studies in the report show how colleges and universities are already sharing funding, resources, and staff expertise.
While universities and further education colleges will continue to offer distinct courses and skills training, the need for closer working between them and local employers will become increasingly important as demand for people of all ages with higher level skills continues to grow, particularly at Levels 4 and 5 (foundation degree, higher national diploma, and higher national certificate).
The total number of part-time students in higher and further education and with alternative providers has fallen from 539,645 in 2013/14 to 476,910 in 2016/17.
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said policymakers need to find ways to develop better local links. He said:
“This report shows that colleges and universities across the country are sharing expertise and resources to provide courses that employers want. This is very different to the perception that they operate in isolation. The debate shouldn’t be about further versus higher education. Government, funders and regulators should focus on building strong local links, not seeing an unreal divide.
“There has been a worrying drop in part-time and mature study numbers, when our economy needs more of them. We must develop policies to make part-time study more appealing, upskilling easier and encourage lifelong learning among our ageing population. Incentivising even closer working between universities, colleges and employers can help us achieve these aims.”
Sam Gyimah MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, said:
“The findings of this report demonstrate the undeniable value of engaging employers in our education system. Not only is it for the benefit of students but also the country’s economy.
“I want colleges, universities, business and industry to work together to ensure our education and training system is giving young people the skills they need to succeed in whatever career they choose and delivering the skilled workforce employers demand.
“Our review of post-18 education and funding is also looking at how we can ensure the system provides genuine choice and works better for everyone.”