Colleges back IPPR over fee-only vocational degrees

10 Jun 13
Colleges have welcomed calls for ‘fee-only’ vocational degrees that would cost £5,000 and be targeted at students living locally.

The Institute for Public Policy Research today published the final report from its Commission on the Future of Higher Education. As Public Finance reported last month, this recommended a new kind of degree for students who live at home or work part time. These students would not be eligible for maintenance grants or loans, saving the government around £10,000 per student.

Other recommendations included paying HE institutions a ‘student premium’ of £1,000 for each extra student they recruit from under-represented groups or who has been on free school meals. Funding should be shifted out of fee waivers and bursaries towards outreach programmes, which the commission said were more effective at recruiting students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

It also called for the return of the polytechnic. Large further education colleges that already have degree-awarding powers should be able to apply for polytechnic status.

Responding to the proposals, the Association of Colleges said ‘fee-only’ degrees were a ‘welcome opportunity’. The body also backed calls for the student premium.

Gill Clipson, deputy chief executive of the AoC, said: ‘One of the recognised strengths of colleges delivering HE is their ability to widen participation and engage older students with work or family commitments, or those from disadvantaged backgrounds or deprived areas, who may not otherwise be able to pursue degree-level study.’

However, she said it was ‘debateable’ whether the return of polytechnic status would send out the right signal about the importance of vocational education.

But Nigel Thrift, chair of the commission and vice chancellor of Warwick University, said it would ‘carve out a distinctive place’ for institutions with a vocational focus.

‘While many universities also provide such qualifications, a different title would protect a distinctive role of higher vocational learning that was lost in 1992. Polytechnic status would be a mark of vocational excellence that would send out wider signals about the importance of vocational learning. It would signal that the university title and the university route are not the only form of high status in our system,’ said Thrift.


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