Businessman reading a financial report. Image credit: Thinkstock

OU responds to calls for £500m funding to be redirected from universities

Leading political think-tank Policy Exchange has published a report calling on BIS to redirect £500m from universities grant funding into Further Education to boost higher level professional and technical education.

The report, Higher, Further, Faster, More, says that, while UK universities are some of the best in the world, they are sitting on significant financial reserves and public spending is currently skewed too much towards Higher Education to the detriment of Further Education. It says that this is hampering the growth of the training desperately needed for a range of technical and professional jobs in the UK labour market.

Speaking about the report The Open University said: “Behind the stark headlines the report reaffirms the importance of lifelong learning, skills agenda and pathways. The focus on apprenticeships shows that there is a conscious movement away from those of school leaving age, and the OU is well positioned to deliver on the Government’s agenda to earn while learning and practice based learning.”

It adds: “The UK is facing a dearth of skilled practitioners, potentially leaving the Nation at a competitive disadvantage. Apprenticeships are one element of the tactical approach to address the situation but the strength of Higher Education and industry partnerships should not be underestimated. The inclusion of The Open University’s partnership with the NHS to provide education tailored specifically to social workers in the report is recognition of this. These flexible part-time study pathways help NHS Trusts meet strategic workforce planning objectives and support the UK Government’s national agenda of widening access, up-skilling the workforce and contributing to productivity.”

The report makes a number of other recommendations including:

  • The ability for the new Institutes of Technology, announced in the Government’s recent Productivity Plan, to award their own technical degrees rather than have to partner with a university
  • The expansion of Industrial Partnership bodies – groups of employers in specific sectors – to be the main route to design and approve all new technical qualifications, including higher level Apprenticeships

Jonathan Simons, Head of Education at Policy Exchange, said, “The case for training and for skills has never been more important – to help create three million Apprenticeships, to fuel the Northern Powerhouse, to boost social mobility and to drive economic growth.

“The UK is home to world beating universities that we should all be proud of. But as well as degrees, we also need many more people with high class technical and professional skills – and that means a flourishing further education system.

“It is clear that higher education is significantly better funded than its further education counterpart. Universities have substantial cash reserves which could be much better utilised than sitting in banks. That is why we think a proportion of the government grant to universities should be reallocated towards offering more students higher level technical qualifications at further education institutions, and why the student loan system should be expanded so that young people have access to finance to support their higher level study whichever route they choose.”