Overhauling Higher Technical Education (HTE) could be key to government plans to revolutionize UK skills, says new report – FE News
A new report from the Lifelong Education Commission argues that reversing the decline in higher technical education (HTE) provision in England could be key to delivering the government’s upgrading plans. This finding follows detailed research by the LEC, supported by the University of Salford, which found that higher technical education in the UK is in rapid decline. Over the past 5 years, learner enrollment in HTE courses has dropped by 25%, while completion of full degrees has increased by 8% over the same period.
LEC President and former Universities Minister Chris Skidmore explains the problem:
“Higher technical education has too often been treated as the neglected stage of the education sector, despite having a rich and proud tradition to sustain it. The decline of specialist technical colleges in the 1990s led to an explosion in higher education, but it also left huge swaths of English learners without the skills they need to adapt to a rapidly changing economy. . That’s why boosting higher technical education should be priority number one in the government’s plan to launch a ‘skills revolution’ in the UK. The legislative framework in this regard has already been established in the Post-16 Skills and Education Bill. However, to make the most of this golden opportunity, policy makers must choose the right approach”
The report comes at a time when the value of superior technical skills is increasingly recognized in Westminster.
In its White Paper on Upgrading and the Post-16 Skills and Education Bill, the government announced a series of initiatives to increase the quantity and quality of FTE provision by England. These include:
- Establish Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) across the country, aimed at making “technical skills training more relevant to local needs” 
- Nine new employer-led Institutes of Technology (IoT) launched to build technical skills in STEM subjects 
- Develop Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs) in collaboration with employers to help learners acquire the skills they need for their chosen career
- Offer a Loan for Life (LLE) entitlement, which provides funding for up to the equivalent of four years of study after age 18
According to the report, these policies represent a much-needed boost to the UK’s creaky adult technical education sector. Without a joint approach, however, researchers fear that these initiatives will have no real impact.
Professor Helen Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Salford, explains why:
“Increasing the rate of participation in higher technical education will be essential to closing skills gaps in key sectors, stimulating economic growth and improving opportunities throughout the country. However, there are obstacles to this. There is a lack of understanding among students, teachers and employers about what higher technical education is and why it is valuable, and there is a lower level of perceived erroneous prestige associated with these courses compared to to other branches of higher education.
“At Salford, we are committed to working with continuing education providers and employers to increase all pathways to higher education, including higher, graduate and diploma technical apprenticeships and three-year diplomas. I welcome the release of this report today, which makes a number of sensible recommendations to boost higher technical education in the UK.
This problem was also recognized in the Augar Review, which stated that the technical education system after 18 years has suffered over time “a loss of status and prestige among learners, employers and the general public” . .
To address this issue, the report recommends that the government expand its current efforts to promote EHT by implementing a program under which institutes of technology (IoT) would receive funding to conduct their own promotional campaigns. This would help by tailoring information campaigns to particular contexts, as IoT can draw on their knowledge of the local economic and social context.
In addition, the government could launch two separate national information campaigns promoting EHT: one aimed at learners aged 16-18, and the other aimed at employers and experienced workers wishing to upgrade. or recycle.
Among the report’s other recommendations for reforming HTE are measures to enhance its prestige in the education sector:
- Commit to new rounds of funding for IoT that are able to demonstrate that they have a positive effect in supporting local specialties and economic clusters
- Offering a flexible lifetime loan entitlement which a) is available to HTE on an equal basis to full degrees, b) removes the ELQ rule, allowing learners to fund qualifications at a lower level than those they currently hold, and c) ensures that LLE is additional to any student loans already held by individuals
- Enable access to maintenance support funding for HTE students. Making maintenance funding available on an equal basis would send a clear message that society values time spent on technical education as much as time spent on degrees.
- Improve career choices, information, advice and guidance at all ages for higher technical options after age 16. In particular, learners would benefit from having more details on student funding, the link between employers and HTQs/IoT, the full range of HTE qualifications available, and the relative merits of each type.
ResPublica Director Phillip Blond explains the importance of technical skills in improving education in the UK:
“Higher technical education has much to offer learners, both early in life and at various stages of adulthood. It can provide practical skills for the workplace and for life in less time than a full honors degree, while providing a stepping stone to the pursuit of higher education for those who want it. Upgrading this sector will help more people gain the skills they need to find better paying, personally rewarding and socially beneficial work.
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