Higher education loan reforms to help segmented study and retraining
Loans for higher education must be relaxed to allow adults and young people to space their learning throughout their lives and to take more high-quality vocational courses in higher education institutions or higher education and retraining for the jobs of the future.
The announcement was made by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he laid out plans on September 29 to transform the training and skills system, making it “fit for the 21st century economy” and helping the country to “Rebuild better” from the coronavirus. .
Johnson said: “The UK economy is changing dramatically and rapidly, driven by the internet and the possibilities of distance communication.
“But as old types of jobs disappear, opportunities are opening up at breakneck speed – vast new sectors in which this country is already a leader or can lead the world.”
He said the UK has lagged behind other countries in technical skills, in part due to “arrogant” attitudes towards professional qualifications.
Announcing a Lifetime Skills Guarantee, Johnson said: “We are transforming the foundations of the skills system so that everyone has the chance to learn and retrain. My message today is therefore that at every stage of your life, this government will help you acquire the skills you need.
A statement issued by No 10 Downing Street, explained that the government is committed to making higher education more flexible to facilitate lifelong learning and to allow adults and young people to easily divide their studies in segments, to transfer credits between colleges and universities. and allow more part-time studies.
This new arrangement will fund short-term studies rather than having to study in a block of three or four years.
Adults without A-Level or equivalent qualification will be offered a free, fully-funded college course – providing them with skills valued by employers and the opportunity to study when and where they are comfortable.
This offer will be available from April in England and will be paid for through the National Skills Fund.
These reforms will be supported by continued investments in college buildings and facilities, including more than £ 1.5 billion (almost US $ 2 billion) in capital funding, with more details to be provided later. this year.
According to No 10, the coronavirus pandemic and the changing economy is why the Prime Minister is developing a long-term plan to ensure that as work changes, people can retrain , develop their skills and find new, well-paying jobs.
Flexibility of the training structure
Learning opportunities will also be increased, with more funding for SMEs that hire apprentices and greater flexibility in how their training is structured – especially in sectors such as construction and the creative industries where models jobs are more varied.
In 2000, more than 100,000 people were working to obtain higher national certificates and diplomas, but this number is now reduced to less than 35,000. The number of basic graduates has fallen from 81,000 to 30,000.
Therefore, only 10% of adults hold a higher technical qualification as the highest qualification, compared to 20% in Germany and 34% in Canada. This despite the fact that, five years after completion, the average senior technical apprentice earns more than the average graduate.
“This is why the government is committed to making higher education more flexible,” the statement said, in order to allow studies to be separated into chunks and to encourage more part-time studies.
According to Universities UK (UUK), around one in four adults could benefit from changes to allow more adults to study in shorter, more flexible courses at university, in order to retrain those affected by the economic downturn in the world. COVID-19.
Currently, to be eligible for financial support for higher education, students must commit to a qualification in advance and complete at least 25% of a full-time course work. This commitment is too large for many to make, including adult learners who want to balance schooling with other commitments in employment, family and care.
A situation in which they could receive funding and targeted sustaining grants to effectively build their skills over time through flexible study could open the door to thousands of potential “lost learners”, says the UK.
Digital skills training camps
The government is also committing £ 8million to digital skills training camps; the expansion of successful pilot projects in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands; and the introduction of programs in four new locations.
From next year, the training camps will be extended to sectors like construction and engineering, “helping the country to rebuild better” and supporting the “refreshed” industrial strategy.
Earlier this year, the government launched its free online skills toolkit, helping people learn digital skills and numeracy. This program is being expanded today to include 62 additional courses.
Some £ 2.5bn is also being made available through the National Skills Fund to help people return to work after COVID, as well as to give those who are working the opportunity to train for jobs more qualified and better paid.
Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech on adult learning and skills, Professor Julia Buckingham, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University in London, said the new approach to funding education Higher Education Could Benefit Millions of Adults: Changes to Student Funding to Better Support Flexible, Part-time and Adult Learning. Today’s announcement is a first step in the right direction. “
She said there is a strong economic imperative to improve flexible learning, and the UK is pleased the government has recognized the role universities can play in addressing skills shortages and improving the skills of existing employees. .
“There has been a marked decline in adult learning in recent years, and as the nation seeks to recover and rebuild from the impact of COVID-19, we need a new one more than ever before. reflection and policy change to help people of all ages and backgrounds. to requalify and retrain, ”she said.
“Many universities are ready to expand alternatives to the traditional three-year degree and give more people the opportunity to study the elements of a course in a ‘bite-size’ learning model.
“This would allow people to develop skills in areas such as digital, entrepreneurship, business and public sector management, all of which will have the potential to benefit the UK’s recovery and boost local economies.
“It would also help unemployed people in certain sectors – like construction, engineering and aviation – who have been hit hard by the pandemic,” she added.
Advocacy for an apprenticeship diploma
Dr Greg Walker, CEO of MillionPlus, the Association of Modern Universities, said degree apprenticeships should be at the heart of reforms.
“Combining learning with a degree is a good way to make learning portable, as the PM wants our skills system to be.
“Such portability will also be facilitated by the introduction of greater flexibility into the student loan system, which MillionPlus has long been calling for,” Walker said.
“The government should ensure that its reforms allow individuals to access financial support for stand-alone level 4 and 5 courses at university as well as FE colleges. This support should also be available for part-time students. ”
Business leaders welcomed the government’s announcement. Paul Geddes, CEO of QA, which claims to be the UK’s largest training and tech talent organization, said: “We are delighted to hear the government’s commitment to close the digital skills gap in the UK. Uni, and in particular the announcement of an £ 8. million invested in digital skills training camps. “
As a partner in one of the Greater Manchester Training Camp pilot programs, he says it is possible to train people with the right skills, regardless of background, to a level of readiness for the employment in some of the most in-demand digital skills. like software development in as little as 12 weeks.
Clare Barclay, CEO of Microsoft UK, said: “Individuals, businesses and government need to develop the skills we need for tomorrow. If we don’t act now, the UK could easily be left behind in the global economy. “
What will employability mean in the digital age and how should higher education adapt? This free webinar, hosted by University World News in partnership with Mastercard Foundation, will be held on October 28, 2020 at 10 a.m. New York, 2 p.m. London (GMT) and 4 p.m. South Africa. You can find out more and register to participate here.