Technical and Further Education Bill could increase costs for providers, exam boards warn

2nd December 2016 at 00:01
technical and further education bill qualifications
Forcing awarding bodies to hand over copyright for their qualifications could result in higher charges, boards claim

Awarding bodies have said they are “enormously concerned” about government plans to force them to relinquish copyright for their post-16 technical qualifications – a move they believe could lead to rising costs for providers.

According to the Technical and Further Education Bill, currently going through Parliament, copyright for qualifications would be transferred to the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education.

Exam board official Geoffrey Holden said the move effectively amounted to the “nationalisation of technical education”. And the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) told TES it was seeking legal advice over the plans.

The changes would have serious implications for awarding bodies and could even lead to some deciding to stop offering technical qualifications altogether, FAB chief executive Stephen Wright added.

Moves to overhaul the structure of technical education were unveiled in the Post-16 Skills Plan, published in July. The document revealed that each qualification at levels 2 and 3 would be awarded by a single awarding body or consortium “following an open competition”, rather than awarding bodies competing with each other in an open market as they do now.

In July, a senior exam board source told TES that the plans would mean that smaller awarding bodies were “just not going to have a chance”.

'The nationalisation of technical education'

The schedule to the Bill, currently going through the House of Commons, states that not only would the institute be responsible for approving technical education qualifications developed by awarding bodies, but the copyright for any approved qualifications would also be transferred to it. The institute would then be able to assign or grant a licence for a third party to deliver these qualifications.

The education secretary would also be handed the power to issue technical education certificates, as well as the right to charge a fee for issuing these or supplying a copy.

Mr Holden, senior policy adviser at City & Guilds, argues that the plans “would result in the de facto nationalisation of technical education in England”.

Writing in today’s TES (article free for subscribers), he adds that research has shown that “a monopoly or franchising outcome would more likely increase costs, while decreasing innovation and raising the chance of system failure”.

“We have enormous concerns,” agreed FAB’s Mr Wright. “For awarding organisations, that is what they trade on: content. It is at the heart of what they do.”

He added that having to give their intellectual property over to the institute would force awarding organisations to either charge providers significantly higher fees or drop out of the market altogether.

This is an edited version of an article in the 2 December edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

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