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Exclusive: Universities earn record £50m from FE courses

The number of universities receiving ESFA funding has nearly tripled in four years, according to new figures

Universities have received a record amount of funding for FE provision, research shows

The number of universities receiving ESFA funding has nearly tripled in four years, according to new figures

Universities will receive more than £50 million in income from delivering FE provision, including apprenticeships, in 2018-19, it has been revealed.

Data from the Education and Skills Funding Agency shows that universities have received a total of £53,673,843 this year –  £29,824,420 of which was for apprenticeship provision.

That represents a significant increase on 2016-17, when university income from FE stood at £31.9 million, and 2014-15, when universities received £12.6 million. This is despite the fact that the number of universities receiving funding has remained reasonably stable in the past year, at 62 institutions. In 2014-15, the number stood at only 21.

While overall apprenticeship starts deteriorated year on year following the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, higher-level apprenticeships have doubled in three years – from 19,800 starts in 2014-15 to 48,200 in 2017-18. These apprenticeships are available from level 4 – foundation degree level – to level 7 – postgraduate degree level.

Degree apprenticeships: 'a fantastic debt-free choice'

Mark Dawe, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “The growth in degree apprenticeships comes as no surprise when young people are now getting a fantastic debt-free choice, so now is the time we should be looking to access the HE budget for future provision. We hope the [post-18 review] report will agree.”

Julian Gravatt, deputy chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: “The government actively encouraged universities to provide more apprenticeships while, at the same time, ensuring that there are more degree and higher apprenticeship standards. It’s good to have more high-quality, not-for-profit providers in the training business, though we remain concerned that the apprenticeship budget is becoming overstretched and the people who are losing out in the competition for funds are young apprentices and small companies.”

A Universities UK spokesperson said: “The debate shouldn’t be about further versus higher education. Incentivising even closer working between universities, colleges and employers can help us to meet the future needs of the economy. This will be increasingly important as demand for people of all ages with higher-level skills continues to grow, particularly at levels 4 and 5.”

Working together

Apprenticeships minister Anne Milton said: “Degree apprenticeships are a brilliant way to earn while you learn at some of the UK’s top universities; they offer a real alternative to a traditional degree course, combining a degree with a paid job and vital experience of work.

“It is great to see that over 100 universities, including many in the Russell Group, are now offering apprenticeships at this level. They are an excellent example of leading businesses and universities successfully working together to design programmes that give people the higher level skills many employers need."

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