New report from Policy Exchange on improving public resource for education and training

20 October 2014

UK think tank Policy Exchange has published a new report – “Higher, Further, Faster, More: Improving higher level professional and technical education” – which looks at how UK public spending has fixated too much on Higher Education to the detriment of Further Education.

The report finds that funding for higher education institutions has significantly increased since the tuition fees were first introduced. It illustrates that there has been a rise in overall income of 26 per cent since 2009/10 and points out that universities sit on £12.3bn of unrestricted reserves – worth around 48 per cent of the entire annual budget for the Higher Education sector.

Further Education colleges, however, have rather seen a drop in their revenue, as adult skills budgets have been cut by 24 per cent since 2009/10. What’s more, the National Audit Office found that more than 1 in 4 of the entire Further Education college network could effectively go bankrupt within a year.

With there being a desperate need of training for a range of technical and professional jobs in the UK labour market, in this report Policy Exchange highlights a number of statistics to stress the lack of technical graduates in the UK and the impact this could have on the future of the labour market:

The Royal Academy of Engineering forecasts that the UK economy requires 830,000 more engineers by 2020
28 per cent of firms who need technicians qualified in science, technology and engineering or maths already report difficulty in recruiting
20 per cent more construction staff are required in London and the South East from 2014-17 compared to 2010-13, with a particular focus on skilled construction workers

In support of Policy Exchange’s acclaim to encourage more technical and professional jobs,NIACE chief executive David Hughes responded with:

“NIACE is pleased to see that Policy Exchange are joining us in advocating a universal and unified post 19 funding and student loans system together with a call for personal learning accounts to give people greater control and access to learning throughout their lives. These were key issues within our submission to HM Treasury ahead of the Spending Review.”

“The Spending Review is an opportunity to redress the balance between employer demand for technical and professional skills and the need for good jobs, with ever-dwindling public investment in further education provision. Further education is of course one of the best ways to increase productivity and help secure economic growth locally and nationally. But we shouldn’t forget the FE sector’s success in promoting social inclusion through community learning and working directly with the most disadvantaged young people and adults. Ambitious plans for technical and higher skills are great, but we must ensure the pathways for people to get there are not lost.”