Higher Technical Education (HTQs at levels 4 and 5)

ASCL response to the government consultation on Higher Technical Education.
Summary of ASCL’s response 
Many further education providers offer post-18 and higher technical provision, including professional training courses, higher national certificates and diplomas and other higher education at levels 4 and 5.  

ASCL welcomes the Government’s review of classroom-based HTQs at level 4 and 5. There are three important aspects of this level of technical education which are being consulted on – developing prestigious programmes which meet the skills needs of employers; providing higher quality qualifications at this level; and ensuring a better understanding by both younger people and adults in work who do not always recognise the value of the programmes on offer. Addressing these three aspects should increase take up of the opportunities higher HTQs offer to individuals, their current and future employers and to the economy and society.

What is this consultation about?
The consultation is about the future aims, structure and funding of HTQs at levels 4 and 5. Consultation questions include the proposed aims of HTQs, the role of awarding bodies, issues of copyright, flexibilities and requirements in the approval process, the Government’s approach to Ofqual and OfS, criteria for high quality programmes, labour market relevance, competitive grant and capital funding, non-financial support needed to deliver HTQs, enhanced support for students, improving information gaps and the profile of HTQs for potential students, teachers and employers.

How did we respond? 
ASCL welcomes the wide-ranging issues proposed in the consultation on HTQs at levels 4 and 5 and broadly agrees with the proposed measures. 

We welcome the Government’s focus on this level of programme, which we believe is vital to the development of the nation’s future skills. We believe that improved funding of providers and financial support for learners, along with improved IAG, will enable high quality  HTQs to be more available and affordable to learners. 

In our response, we argue strongly for an approach which delivers high quality but is not overly bureaucratic and which is properly funded.

ASCL believes, that unless funding, student finance and IAG about programmes at levels 4 and 5 are reviewed and improved, fewer people than is necessary for a strong economy will know about and be able to afford to progress to HTQs, which will exacerbate the skills gap at this level. 

Why have we taken this view? 
This is the right time for the Government to review the structure and funding of HTQs at levels 4 and 5. We welcome the Government’s focus on Higher Technical Education and the recognition that much of what is already offered at this level is of good or outstanding quality.

There is, however, a lack of knowledge about these qualifications outside of awarding bodies and providers. Providers of higher HTQs offer a wide range of programmes at levels 4 and 5, including professional qualifications, HNC/HNDs, foundation courses and foundation degrees, yet providers and learners face barriers in terms of sufficient funding and finance support, as well as a lack of availability of wider IAG about programmes on offer.

The issue of funding, in particular, cannot be ignored when providers are making decisions about their offer. Providers need both sufficient funding and a rolling three-year funding settlement. This will support sustainability, ensuring that providers are able to invest in the staffing, facilities and the equipment needed to deliver more expensive courses. Providers must be confident that they will be able to cover the total cost of delivery of such programmes as well as affording the costly resources needed to ensure their high quality.

Anne Murdoch, Senior Advisor, College Leadership
Kevin Gilmartin, Post-16 and Colleges Specialist

Full response to consultation