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The government's announcement of a major review of the National Student Survey signals a worrying shift in the HE regulatory landscape, warns Jon Scott, higher education consultant and former Pro Vice-Chancellor (student experience) at the University of Leicester.
Statements from ministers this week have made it clear that higher education in England is facing significant reforms, re-setting its focus towards helping to plug the UK's skills gaps and rebuilding the economy. Fariba Soetan, Policy Lead for Research and Innovation at the National Centre for Universities and Business, argues that the proposed changes bring a welcome focus on graduate outcomes and supporting the careers of young people.
Universities and colleges across England have been awarded a total of £4.5 million to develop thousands of new degree apprenticeships for students starting in September 2017.
The new degree apprenticeships are set to open the door to careers in everything from nursing to construction and food manufacturing, according to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, which announced the funding.
Working in partnership with leading employers, the universities and colleges will offer 5,200 new opportunities for apprentices and their employers in preparation for the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April 2017.
Designed by employers, universities and professional bodies, degree apprenticeships deliver high-tech and high level skills and offer an alternative to a traditional degree course. Bringing together university study with paid work, degree apprentices spend part of their time at university and part with their employer.
The eighteen successful projects have been awarded funding from HEFCE in the first round of a two-year programme.
Skills and Apprenticeships Minister Robert Halfon said: “Apprenticeships work, that’s why we’ve launched degree apprenticeships that give people a real chance to earn while you learn putting you on the fast-track to a top career.
“This multi-million pound fund will allow universities and colleges to work with top employers to design high quality degree apprenticeships that give people a ladder of opportunity, more choice and help shape Britain to become an apprentice nation.”
Almost 70 bids were submitted for the fund, showing the ambition and appetite from the higher education sector to get behind degree apprenticeships.
Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said: "The development of degree apprenticeships will provide more people with the chance to study in higher education and work at the same time, and in doing so to fulfil their educational and career ambitions. Employers will be able to use their apprenticeship levy funds to access degree apprenticeships from a range of higher education providers, and the fund will support institutions in preparing for the increased demand that will follow the levy’s introduction from April 2017."
The Government funding has been awarded by HEFCE to projects focused on boosting the number of degree apprenticeships available. It forms a key part of the drive to strengthen the reputation of on-the-job training by raising standards and creating more high-quality opportunities for young people and adults from all backgrounds.
Provisional figures released on 6 October show an increase in the numbers of people starting higher and degree apprenticeships, with more than 27,000 higher and degree apprenticeships started so far in 2015 to 2016 academic year.
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