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Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.
Mike Boxall, an independent researcher and consultant on higher education policies and strategies, and a senior adviser to PA Consulting, considers the emerging post-COVID world and its implications for the future of universities. His blog is based on a paper published recently by PA Consulting, and co-authored with its HE lead, Ian Matthias.
The Westminster government should wake up to the full potential of higher education to help it meet its ‘levelling up’ goals, argues Professor Martin Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire University.
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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