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AoC responds to the Higher Education Policy Institute's paper on post-16 skills strategy

23rd November 2023

HEPI report

In response to "Connecting the Dots: The Need for an Effective Skills System in England", David Hughes, chief executive, Association of Colleges, said:

“Collaboration between universities and colleges does happen across the country, but not in enough places and for enough learners.

“There are barriers in place. The first is that the core mission of universities, colleges and schools are not aligned at their heart, in their values or in the culture of beliefs and values. Changing that will take a generation and would be the most enduring route to a proper system, baked into the DNA of every institution and its staff.

“The second is that the major underlying driver for the current institutional, policy and funding arrangements, which have favoured HE over the last 20 years, is a snobbery against technical learning. The result is that policymakers and politicians all too often, almost instinctively, value someone achieving a degree more than a literacy or numeracy certificate. Universities are somehow deemed to be ‘better’ than colleges, and so-called academic learning is presumed to be more important than technical.

“We need change, and it is encouraging to see a consensus for building a more coherent, balanced and cohesive tertiary system. We spend a lot of tax revenue on education post-18 but the labour market is lacking in people with the skills, particularly at Levels 3, 4 and 5, to meet employer demand. Productivity is flat-lining and regional inequalities and disadvantage gaps in educational achievement persist with no signs of improvement.

“I urge policy makers to take the recommendations in this report seriously. Collaboration and coordination to make pathways for learners more straightforward and clear routes into good jobs with employers as partners in education will help. An effective first step would be a statement of priorities to include key areas like net zero, the NHS and digital, with colleges and universities, working with employers, challenged to deliver on these priorities.”

You can read the full report here.