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Higher Education Reforms - College Sector response

23 February 2022

In response to today's announcement by the government on potential reforms to higher education, including potential new minimum entry requirements, Association of Colleges has issued the statement below.

Colleges are a major provider of higher education, with more than two-thirds of colleges offering higher education locally, often to those who had not previously been able to access it.

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges said:

“It’s hard to assess from what has been briefed how this package will impact, but it is highly likely that what the Government hails as the ‘largest increase to the sector in a decade’ will not feel like that for colleges and probably has more to do with a lack of previous investment over the last ten years, than a bumper bonus now.

There are more than 150 colleges across England offering high quality, employment-focused higher education to adults who would not be able to access it elsewhere. We are very worried that this package of reforms, including minimum entry requirements and caps will hit them the hardest. Our focus when we see the details will be to judge how the complex system of higher education might change, how universities might behave and how that will impact on the ability of colleges to meet the needs of their diverse communities. Adults often enter college HE without a suite of GCSEs or A Levels and go onto good outcomes, including good jobs and promotions; excluding them through a minimum entry requirement would be perverse.

Our hope is that the package of reforms will herald a ‘reformation of opportunity’ for adults across the country, able to access flexible, part-time and local HE because that’s what the Lifelong Learning Entitlement is meant to do, and that’s what everybody deserves. As ever, the devil will be in the detail, so we look forward to examining the consultation in full when it’s released, with a particular eye on what this means for the 50% of people who currently don’t experience HE.”