The Lord’s Economic Affairs Committee report of their Inquiry into the Economics of Higher, Further and Technical Education

11 June 2018

The Lord’s Economic Affairs Committee have today published the report of their Inquiry into the Economics of Higher, Further and Technical Education. Commenting on the report, Dr Fiona Aldridge of Learning and Work Institute said:

Today’s report will make for some challenging reading in government.  But beneath the headlines there is a lot here to welcome and a lot that Ministers and officials will likely agree with.  It is welcome to see the Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee challenging what it calls the ‘monoculture’ in post-18 education, and the ‘unfair’ funding system that has contributed to steep falls both in adult learning and part-time study.  At a time when we’re living and working for longer, with the skills needed for work changing faster than ever, doing nothing is not an option.   We strongly support their call for a new deal in higher education funding and hope that the government’s post-18 review will rise to these challenges.

On apprenticeships, we welcome the committee’s focus on driving up quality and improving access.  This echoes calls made by ourselves and a range of leading experts in our All Change report, released last week.  As things stand, the government risks missing its apprenticeships target while also missing the point – which must be to deliver a world class, work-based vocational skills offer that meets the needs of the economy, employers and learners.  While we agree with much of the committee’s findings, we would not support at this stage the abolition of the Institute for Apprenticeships.  The system has seen near-constant reform over the last decade and the IfA has jobs to do, particularly on standards and end-point assessment.  We should focus on getting this right first.

Finally, we strongly support the committee’s calls for full funding for a first Level 3 qualification – for all students, full- or part-time, irrespective of age.  Our performance in intermediate skills is among the worst in the OECD, and creating entitlement and opportunity for adults to develop their skills at this level will be good for them, good for business and good for our wider society and economy.

Learning and Work Institute’s submission to the Committee is available here.