Labour's new shadow FE minister Emma Hardy has pledged to focus on tackling further education funding and address the relationship between FE and HE.
Ms Hardy, who has been MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle since 2017 and sat on the Commons Education Select Committee, will have responsibility for both further and higher education. This morning, she published a video on Twitter expressing her delight.
But what will be her priorities be for the sector?
The relationship between FE and HE
Ms Hardy told Tes that she wanted to look at the pipeline of qualifications from FE through to HE. She said that encouraging a good relationship between the two sectors was crucial – and also raised concerns with the Office for Students.
"I’d like to do some work on encouraging the FE sector to work closely with the HE sector on delivering and improving all routes through to degree apprenticeships," she said.
"I’ve been critical of Office for Students in the past, as a way of judging the effectiveness of higher education and I have some concerns about that, and the fact they don’t have the National Union of Students represented and how that actually works in practice, and I’ve spoken about the impact these changes have had on universities like the University of Hull. I’d also been keen to pursue stopping universities from offering unconditional offers."
Ms Hardy also touched upon funding and said she would argue for much-needed funding for FE – but not at the expense of HE.
"My concern with this government is that it will look at subsidising FE and colleges by taking money away from HE," she added. "For me, that isn't the answer; they all serve a role, they all have a purpose. You need to go back to having that more clearly defined – they’ve got muddled over the past number of years with institutions having to compete against each other, rather than work together in a local area to deliver for that local economy."
Skills devolution will be another priority for Ms Hardy. She told Tes that she was keen to look at whether or not it is possible to devolve FE budgets further.
She said: "The government is talking a lot about devolution and how that is going to work. I'd like to look at whether it would be possible to devolve more of those funding decisions down to a regional area, either through the mayoral system or however the government chooses to look at it, so we can look at funding the education places and training needed in that local economy and the people in that local area."