Everyone should be entitled to study or train for a post-school, sub-degree level course, the Confederation of British Industry’s (CBI) director general will say in a speech today.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the government’s review of post-18 education and funding, which is due to be published soon, Carolyn Fairbairn is expected to call on the government to fund a new level 4 and 5 entitlement for learners.
In a speech at Cambridge Regional College, Ms Fairbairn will warn that “much-needed changes” to the further education system in England should not come at the expense of university funding and the government must not “rob Peter to pay Paul”.
The CBI will outline the financial implications of its proposed changes to further education funding in more detail ahead of the 2019 spending review.
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Colleges have been 'neglected'
Ms Fairbairn will say that the conversation is shifting towards a new enhanced role for colleges in the education system, adding: “Whether the government should give people an entitlement to an extra qualification between an A level and a university degree. An apprenticeship, or technical course based at a college.
“It could be a year when different backgrounds come together and learn skills they might not otherwise. It could be a profound shift in favour of a higher-skilled economy. Get it right and our colleges might find their roles better recognised and understood. Receiving a new prominence in the lives of our young people and in national life too.
“And when it comes to universities, what if they too could offer the same kind of flexible service as many of our colleges? What if it could become possible, later in life, to return to university to study for a period much shorter than three years.”
Praise for college flexibility
Ms Fairbairn will also praise colleges for the flexibility they offer employers in running short and bespoke courses. She will add: “Often companies succeed because they help their people evolve through education. Colleges serve these firms brilliantly through running tailored courses, taking employees for short periods of time and teaching them the skills they need for new sets of tasks.
“But sometimes our colleges aren’t given the consideration they deserve. As a national resource, they’ve been underestimated. Historically, they’ve been underfunded.
“Politically, they’ve been neglected. And frankly, post-Brexit – where education is a rare homegrown source of strength, we shouldn’t be robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes said: “We have long been calling on government to be ambitious, to be bold, and to move beyond traditional education and training models if they are serious about securing long-term economic success. CBI are the latest organisation to join us in recognising the vital relationship between employers and colleges and we welcome their endorsement."