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HEi-know Weekly HE News Review: Diversity matters

Mike Ratcliffe, Academic Registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reviews HE sector news in a week when T levels, educational “snobbery”, Oxbridge admissions, and a new universities minister made the headlines.

MPs urge the government to break down barriers to nursing degree apprenticeships

Nursing degree apprenticeships as a successful and sustainable route into the profession will forever be a mirage unless barriers to delivery are torn down, MPs have warned.

UUK roundtable to consider flagging students' mental health problems to parents

Universities UK is bringing together university leaders, mental health experts, and students and parents to consider when a nominated family member or another appropriately identified person might be contacted if a student is suffering with poor mental health or in acute distress.

Graduate earnings probed, unconditional offers questioned, a business levy proposed, and a minister resigned … another news-packed week in HE

Professor Mark Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, and Nicola Owen, Lancaster’s Chief Administrative Officer and Secretary, kick off a new series of HEi-know weekly higher education news reviews, highlighting and commenting on some of the most significant and interesting HE stories and opinions of the past week.

Growth in degree apprenticeships should be a priority, MPs say

A big expansion of degree apprenticeships “is crucial” to create a high-quality system that can plug the skills gap, according to MPs.

The government should make clear to the Institute for Apprenticeships (IfA), the body tasked with helping employers develop apprenticeships and overseeing quality, that the growth of higher degrees is a strategic priority, according to a new report from the House of Commons Education Committee.

Degree apprenticeships are essential for apprentices to progress and “to create a cascade of prestige for apprenticeships and address our skill deficit”, says the report, The apprenticeships ladder of opportunity: quality not quantity.

It warns that a much stronger focus on progression through the various levels is needed, and calls for a UCAS-style portal for technical education to be launched to simplify the application process and encourage further training at higher levels.

Universities have raised concerns that delays in the approval of degree level standards, and the lack of consistency in the advice provided by the IfA, have led to some universities questioning whether they should risk investing in supporting employers to develop a programme.

In its evidence to the committee, the University Alliance said there was a “lack of understanding” on the part of the IfA about existing HE quality mechanisms, and the incorporation of these procedures into IfA processes.

More generally the report warns that too many apprentices are not getting the high-quality training they deserve and that disadvantaged young people in particular do not receive the support they need to pursue an apprenticeship. 

While it recognises the good work being done by many FE colleges and independent training providers, it calls for clearer oversight of apprenticeship training and assessment and a tougher approach to poor quality training.

MPs also say “the opaque world of subcontracting” in apprenticeship provision needs to be given far greater scrutiny. Amid a tripling in the number of approved providers, the report recommends an expanded role for Ofsted inspections and a cap on the amount of training that new providers can offer until they have proved their provision is of sufficient quality.

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