The Education Policy Institute has released a report suggesting that an increase be made to the number of Level four and five requirements or “sub-degree tertiary awards” that would be delivered by Universities as well as FE Colleges.  In order to accomplish this, the report states that a new national system of two-year sub-degree programs should be implemented that could be used as an alternative to HNCs and HNDs.

Led by vocational education adviser Professor Alison Wolf, the report, “Remaking Tertiary Education,” takes a closer look at the need for a revamping of tertiary education in the United Kingdom.  Wolf states that because of its growth, students are not the only ones to be collecting massive debts as a result.  She posits that taxpayers are sharing in that debt as well.

“The large majority of students will not, on current trends, repay their loans in full, and the burden on the Exchequer is set to be several billion pounds for each and every annual cohort of students entering university. The contribution of student loans to net government debt is forecast to rise from around 4% of GDP today to over 11% in 2040”.

The report went on to say that just 4,900 students earned level four awards or higher through the adult education budget in the 2014-15 school year.  That number is a 36% decrease from the year before.

Wolf is pushing for the government to address the issue by implementing a new “high status” qualifications framework at tertiary levels four and five.  She suggests that this be delivered directly by colleges so that university involvement becomes unnecessary.

She adds that the loans system currently in use for university students should be increased to allow coverage to those individuals who are studying a “sub-degree” qualification.

“The contrast between the high take-up of loans for degrees, and the failure of advance learner loans for FE-based learning, is in large part a result of there being no established national system of awards at levels four and five,” states the report.

The report was released after a new plan was introduced by the government that would see a reform made to post-16 education, referred to as the Skills Plan.  The plan was based on recommendations made in part by Wolf in the Sainsbury review of technical education, writes Jude Burke for FEWeek.

Wolf noted that the Sainsbury review was a start, but added that more needed to be done in terms of creating replacements for HNCs and HNDs.  She went on to say that until that happened, students would continue to enroll in universities for their higher level study, believing that the current level four or five do not hold much in the way of recognition.

According to the report, the reason for the drop in higher level technical qualification is due to an over 30-year-old government policy pushing high amounts of low-level vocational qualifications in non-university settings.

The authors recommend that in order for England to create a more functional system, financial aid would need to be available for individual students to use for whichever sort of tertiary education determined by the student to be needed.

Wolf noted that such a proposal differed from advanced learner loans introduced in 2013 for learners aged 24 and older.  She said that such loans, which were expanded this year to include students age 19 and older between levels three and six, were “more limited, more restricted” than the loans she was pushing for.

“At the moment if you’re a student who goes to university you have an automatic entitlement to a big student loan, and what I’m arguing is that that should be extended to people going to levels four and five in further education as well,” she said.