This discussion paper published by the Campaign for Learning considers how to move from a small-scale to large-scale system of post-18 technical education.  

Growing level 4 and 5 Technical Education - a segmented policy approach sets out a framework to define clearly the current drivers and contexts that might affect participation in higher-level technical education and policy recommendations to address these.   

Currently, the numbers of people studying for level 4 and 5 technical education is low. Between the academic years 2016/17 and 2017/18, the number on vocational sub-degrees dropped to c35,000.   

If the government wishes to expand participation significantly to hundreds of thousands of learners, the paper recommends using a framework which segments potential learners into four separate ‘markets’ based on their age group (18-24 or 25+) and mode of study (part-time or full-time): 

In addition, the paper analyses participation on level 4 and 5 provision in the context of the nature of employment and employer support. Together, these approaches create a more nuanced picture and fuller understanding from which to develop a growth strategy. 

The paper shows, for example, that growing 18+ part-time technical education will need a strategy that supports a clearly defined role for employers which is designed to sit alongside level 4 and 5 apprenticeships and avoids cutting across them.  

Comments on the paper:

As this paper demonstrates, considering age and mode of study together gives a clearer idea of where it may be easier or more difficult to increase participation in higher-level technical education. Also, it helps us to understand where there might be competition or conflicts with other parts of the post-18 education system such as higher-level apprenticeships. 

We hope that this paper and its recommendations will be used to inform thinking on this important area for the forthcoming FE/HE White Paper.” 

Julia Wright, National Director at the Campaign for Learning

“The need for effective individuals with higher technical qualifications has never been greater and yet the number of people with these qualifications has seen a marked decline in recent years. The much anticipated White Paper will undoubtedly underline this need and challenge institutions, providers and employers to collaborate to fill the gap. This paper is a valuable and timely contribution to the debate. As well as providing clear analysis, it signposts ways in which these new partnerships can make real progress.” 

John Widdowson, former college principal

This paper was published on 23 November 2020.

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