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Title: SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

Presentation by: Nick Davy, National HE Policy Manager

sche in england issues and challenges
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges


Is it appropriate and efficient for the state to subsidise mainly young people form middle/higher income backgrounds for ¾ years to study literature and poetry?

sche in england issues and challenges1
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges
  • Mission: The Association of Colleges (AoC) exists to represent and promote the interests of Colleges and provide members with professional support services. (represents 97% of all Colleges)
    • 350 Colleges – Further/GFE, Tertiary, 6th Form and Specialist
    • 270 Colleges offer Higher Education (50 to 3,000 +)
    • 11% of the English undergraduate population
    • Mainly – Higher National Certificates/Diplomas, Foundation Degrees (FD), Degrees; small post-graduate
    • 50% of FD [SCHE] delivered in Colleges
    • Also – higher vocational education – professional body certificates, diplomas; work-based HE – competency-based qualifications-National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ)
sche in england issues and challenges3
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges
  • Mass expansion of degree level HE in early 90s, mainly in new university sector
  • 2 year cycle HE, apart from Diploma HE (Nursing, Social Work), increasingly concentrated in College sector; small decline in HNC/D enrolments
  • 2001/2 – Introduction of 2 Year cycle Foundation Degrees; in some cases ‘switching’ HNC/D to FD
  • Aim: 100,000 enrolments by 2010 – met
  • Approximately – 30% - HNC/D; 70% - FD
  • Diploma in Nursing – from ‘13 – phased move to degree
  • SCHE – circa 13% of all undergraduate study
sche in england issues and challenges4
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

Funding/Validation of HE in England

  • Two funding Bodies
    • (a) Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) – exclusively Degree and Postgraduate level study
    • (b) Skills Funding Agency – Professional Certificates/Diplomas – mainly part-time
    • HEFCE Funding – formula based on student numbers/subject
      • Direct – To College – entrant student numbers control (from 2009)
      • Indirect – To University – numbers passed to College – Tensions as Universities can withdraw numbers
      • Validation – University validates and awards
      • Since 2007/8 – Colleges allowed to achieve Foundation Degree Awarding Powers. 2 to date; possibly 10?
        • Expensive – entry and ongoing - separate QA system + scholarship
sche in england issues and challenges5
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

Foundation Degree characteristics:

  • Policy Aims: (a) Address regional skills shortages at higher technician level (b) Widen Participation/Cold Spots – Tensions?
  • Mature, part-time, 20% based in workplace
  • Work Based/Related
  • 2 Years Full Time; more part-time
  • Usually 240 Credits (120 – HE1; 120 – HE2)
  • Named Honours progression
  • Majority – Public Sector: Education; Social Care; Early Years
  • Some sectors/teachers/institutions prefer HNC/D – Arts and Design, Engineering
  • HNC/D – longer history (awarded by BTEC now Pearson) – work-related – strong in some occupational areas – Polytechnic/College – now exclusively Colleges
sche in england issues and challenges6
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

HE Today (2012)?

  • Significant Reform process in train – probably without primary legislation – from 2012/13 onwards
  • Create a more market orientated HE system – encourage new private/not for profit entrants
  • Loans/Grants replaced by Higher Loans – up to 11,000 euro p. year
    • STEM/High Cost Subjects protected
  • Full and Part time undergraduate only
  • Loans repayable after earn - 26,000 euro; 20 years payback
  • Estimate – 70% loans will be paid back in full?
  • HEFCE becomes ‘overseer’ of system. If new entrant wants to enter and its students access public loans:
    • Sign up to student number control
    • Quality assurance scheme
    • Prove financial sustainability
sche in england issues and challenges7
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

Fees/Loans and ‘liberalising’ the market?

  • Most prestigious Universities charging 11,000 euro
  • Less prestigious: 7,400 to 11,000
  • Colleges – mainly under 7,400
  • If under 7,400 not required to complete an Access agreement indicating widening participation outreach activities
  • If between 7,400 and 11,000 need to indicate spend on bursaries and fee waivers for ‘poor’ students


  • Open market for high achieving students
  • Contested Margin of 20,000 (2012), 5,000 (2013) places for those Institutions charging below 9,300 euro
  • By 2013 – circa 30% of market ‘liberalised’
  • Policy: prestigious can expand; smaller expansion of cost effective provision; new non-public entrants
sche in england issues and challenges8
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

Contemporary problems and issues:

  • Uncertainty; year to year
  • Tensions in some University/College partnerships
    • Universities withdrawing numbers from Colleges
    • Reluctant to validate new courses
    • Extreme cases – setting College fees
    • Denying progression from FD to Honours (Incentive – 3 years)
    • Wider – (a) History of Technician/Higher Vocational (b) Status of Technician Education (c) ‘Dominance’ of traditional 3 year residential Bachelors Degree (d) Corollary – limited diversity – attendance, Flexible, RPL, CATS, SCHE, Higher Apprenticeships, Bite-sized (e) All the funding incentives – 3 year degree
    • Questions: (a) Demand for SCHE? (b) Different Incentives?
sche in england issues and challenges9
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

History/Contemporary – Weakness of Higher Technical Education

  • Samuelson (1884) – weakness of technical education
  • Industrial Training Act 1964 – industry training boards; Employment and Training Act 1973 – Manpower Services Commission - workforce planning; Dearing Report (1997) – foundation degree development
  • Weiner – the anti-technical education English culture (1981)
  • The ‘low skills equilibrium’ argued by Finegold and Soskice in 1988
  • Skills strategy: “we are currently weak in the vital intermediate technical skills that are increasingly important as jobs become more highly skilled and technological change accelerates.” (DBIS, Skills For Sustainable Growth, 2010, p. 4)
  • UKCES: “19% of employers reported skills gaps in 2009... highest number of skills shortage’s... in “Associate Professional and Technical Occupations” (UKCES, The UK Employment and Skills Almanac 2010: Evidence Report 26, 2011, p. 116)

1. Report of the Royal Commission on Technical Instruction. (The Samuelson Report). 1882-1884

2. Wiener. M (1981) English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit’ CUP.

3......... A low skills equilibrium (LSEq) is a situation where an economy becomes trapped in a circle of low value added, low skills and low wages.

Finegold D and Soskice D. (1988). The Failure of Training in Britain: Analysis and Prescription, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Autumn, pp. 21-51.

sche in england issues and challenges10
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges


  • Demand: The international evidence shows the UK faring slightly worse than the OECD average in terms of percentage employment in Science and Technology occupations
  • Supply: The UK is mid-table within the OECD in terms of the proportion of degrees awarded in the subjects of Science and Engineering. The proportion of these subjects in the total is falling for most countries indicating increasing movement away from STEM is a widespread phenomenon

*House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee; Written evidence (2011) P234/5


  • 6 Million in workforce with level 3 qualifications
  • Low progression from Advanced Apprenticeships (level 3) to HE of all types – possibly 13%*
  • Higher Apprenticeships – SCHE/Competency qualifications – pilots just started

* Smith S and Joslin H (2011) Centre for Work Based Learning, University of Greenwich: Apprentice Progression Tracking Research Project

sche in england issues and challenges11
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges
  • Barriers and difficulties that vocational learners, especially adults, face in progressing to higher level study: “Our study has shown that there is no clear or simple vocational ‘ladder’ of progression to higher levels”. Little change in 2008 and 2009... although examples of good practice such as progression agreements and bridging modules were identified

Connor H and Little (2005) Vocational ladders or crazy paving? Making your way to higher levels. London LSDA

Connor H and Sinclair E (2008) University admissions and vocational qualifications Action on Access

UVAC (2009) Progression from vocational and applied learning to HE in England

  • A rough estimate: (a) 90% of the £10.3bn spent on HE student funding is allocated to full-time students (b) full-time HE student funding accounts for 75% of total adult skills and HE student funding (2006/7 figures)

Adult Skills and Higher Education: separation or union Corney M and Fletcher M CfBT 2007

  • Widening Participation: No increase in those from lower socio-economic backgrounds to prestigious universities in last 10 years
sche in england issues and challenges12
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges


Labour 2009: “see a shift away from full-time three-year degrees and towards a wider variety of provision...and to provide initial advice as to how ‘diverse provision’ can be encouraged.” After the general election in May 2010, “the request still stood...the focus should continue to be on undergraduate provision that differs from the ‘standard offer’ of an honours degree completed in three years through full-time study.”

*HEFCE Response: Major - Need to Change Culture. And: (a) accelerated degrees aimed at the mature market (b) a continuation of employer/HEFCE co-funded provision (c) focus on high-intensity part-time provision, intensity of 50% or above. Questioned demand for SCHE in Colleges?

2011 + Reforms: (a) minimal incentives for accelerated provision (b) employer-funded to continue without support (c) Part-time HE (25-75% intensity) supported by loans

* HEFCE [pub 2011] Diverse provision in higher education: options and challenges: Report to BIS July 2010

sche in england issues and challenges13
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges


  • Loans for all Full time and Part time HE; and Adult FE level 3
  • SCHE part of HE – no distinction
  • Funding - Higher level skills/Professional Qs – to be decided?
  • Higher Apprenticeships – presently 2 funding bodies - to be decided?
  • CATS – 7 pilots (0.9 million euro)
  • All the incentives for new HE entrants to offer courses that attract 3 years of loans
  • No re-balancing of part and full time HE. Early indications that withdrawal of grant will lead to fall in part time enrolments
  • Prestigious Universities likely to grow
  • New/Access universities likely to shrink
  • College HE provision – small growth
  • Some new entrants
sche in england issues and challenges14
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

Conclusions and questions?

  • How can we re-balance HE to be less dominated by the 3 year residential Bachelors Degree?
  • How can we develop Intermediate and Higher level skills (HLS) provision?
  • How can we improve integration between HLS and Vocational/Professional HE?
  • Future – Part time HE?
  • Role of the Professional Bodies and qualification pathways – independent and powerful?
  • What role for SCHE?
  • Are loans a positive or regressive step towards an integrated lifelong learning system?
sche in england issues and challenges15
SCHE in England: Issues and Challenges

Thank You