Jason Goodyear, CEO of Qualifi Awarding Organisation commented that Stephen Howlett’s comments in the article above (extracts below) resonate with the work of Qualifi. As an Ofqual regulated Awarding Organisation, Qualifi provides colleges of FE an opportunity to offer their students qualifications from level 2 to level 8 inclusive. Qualifications that are SFA recognised and at Levels 3 to 6 are Student Loan Company, Advanced learner Loan registered. Qualifi provides a means by which colleges of FE can offer HE qualifications with Top Up to honours degree and masters degree via partner universities. Mr Goodyear echoes the sentiment that FE and HE should not be in competition and through the work of Qualifi both are collaborating to enable learners to progress via Qualifi’s Vocationally Related Qualifications at level 4 and 5 which requiring a smaller loan, on to the final year of an honours degree programme and via Qualifi’s level 7, on to final year masters top up.
I am also hugely supportive of higher education in the traditional sense. University offers people the chance to expand their horizons, raise aspirations and, undoubtedly, have an enjoyable experience. Gaining a degree demonstrates the ability to self-study and self-motivate, as well as developing an in-depth understanding of a particular subject. Degrees are also, quite simply, a minimum requirement for a number of careers.
Yet with rising tuition fees and living costs, a university is not as accessible as it once was. Young people are questioning the benefit of racking up thousands of pounds of student debt with no guaranteed job at the end of their studies.In addition, many older people who didn’t have the chance to go to university are keen to return to
In addition, many older people who didn’t have the chance to go to university are keen to return to study but need a flexible programme to fit in with existing family and/or work commitments. As educators, we, therefore, need to offer a more accessible route to the much-valued degree – and this is something that FE colleges are doing very well.
HE provision in an FE College is often more skills-focused, which is essential in the current jobs market. Businesses need employees who have well-developed employability skills alongside the technical knowledge.
94 percent of students enter our HE provision with no or low UCAS tariff scores, yet our overall success rate is an excellent 85 percent (which compares favourably to the 75 percent sector average). In our recent QAA inspection, the college was praised for its academic standards and the quality of its student academic experience. And, perhaps even more importantly, the number of students going on to highly skilled jobs post-graduation is 85 per cent – against a benchmark of 75 percent. Yet despite these obvious and crucial benefits, recruitment of students to study for a degree in an FE setting is not straightforward.
From a funding perspective, universities benefit from tuition fees and loans – while FE colleges suffer from year-on-year funding cuts, putting them at an immediate disadvantage. So what can we do to strengthen colleges’ HE provision, raise its status and get it the recognition it deserves?
I believe that as FE colleges merge and become more significant institutions within their region, they will be able to develop even stronger relationships with universities and employers, and have a greater economic impact.
FE chairs and their boards, together with senior staff, need to stay on top of the risks and be fully aware of the climate. We need to support entrepreneurial activity and diversification and make bold decisions. We must also continue to be aware of and listen to our communities, to enable us to meet the changing needs of people and businesses.
The HE and FE sectors are not and should not be rivals. Both have a vital role to play in educating our nation and we must do all we can to ensure they are equally respected.
Stephen Howlett is chair of the corporation at London South East Colleges.