In February the Prime Minister announced a major review of education for over 18s.  The review’s aims are to improve both quality and choice, while ensuring value for money, and, to start the review process, the Department for Education invited interested parties to submit their views.

The Association for Colleges is the representative body for the country’s further education colleges and has submitted detailed evidence to the Review. We support and agree with their evidence – we were involved in drafting and agreeing it – and have also resounded to the Review in support of the AOC’s position. We particularly support the AoC’s call for the creation of a new higher education route, based around Higher T Levels, to sit alongside the traditional Bachelor’s degree route. We believe this would fulfil a major need for a flexible system of progression through levels 4, 5 and potentially beyond (levels 4-6 are equivalent to a Batchelor’s degree).

In our experience, students are increasingly attracted to generic, traditional, university degree programmes (partly by the low entry criteria that has resulted from increased competition among universities, and partly due to the advice that students get – which values going to university at 18, more than employment). The result of these factors is that students find themselves in a relatively expensive 3-year degree programme before they achieve any sort of qualification. Finally, in many cases, this Batchelor’s degree only equips them for employment in a job for which they are over-skilled.

We believe that, in the same way that the existing plans for T-Levels provide a prestigious suite of qualifications that sit alongside, but do not detract from, A-Levels, a similar approach is required for higher education programmes. Such programmes could:

  • Provide stepping on and off points with a recognised qualification at each level;
  • Provide options for full or part-time study;
  • Include industrial experience delivered in a variety of modes;
  • Consist of qualifications with a mandatory core based on employment in a sector, and optional modules reflecting the more specific requirements of a sub-sector or employer.