Revealed: The 5,000 qualifications facing the axe

Government announces a cull of qualifications that it says either have no students or fewer than 100 learners

Kate Parker

FE qualifications: The 5,000 facing the axe revealed

More than 5,000 qualifications are set to lose government funding, education secretary Gavin Williamson has revealed today. 

The qualifications in question are either not being taken by anyone or are being studied by fewer than 100 students. There are currently more than 12,000 qualifications available at level 3 and below. 

Mr Williamson said that because so many qualifications are available, finding a course to put students on the path to a great career could be like finding a needle in a haystack. 

He said: “Removing funding for qualifications that have no or low numbers of enrolments will help make sure students have a clearer choice of the qualifications on offer, and ensure they get the skills they need to progress.”

Background: Funding cut for level 3 courses in 'quality' crackdown 

Read more:  Will T levels draw a line in the sand under BTECs?

Long read:  Applied Generals in a battle to survive

Qualifications up for being scrapped include three BTECs all awarded by Pearson: two in business administration and one in customer services.

Qualifications likely to be scrapped

Today's announcement is part of the government's review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below, which is aiming to ensure that all qualifications are  "high-quality, necessary and support students to progress into employment or further study".

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that making the qualification landscape easier to navigate for students and employers was crucial for the success of technical education.

He said: "At the same time, I am pleased at the approach being taken which should protect highly-valued but low enrolment qualifications which provide crucial skills, often in smaller sectors of the economy. We also welcome the opportunity for colleges to feed into the process alongside the awarding bodies they work with.”

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “As we set out in our response to the government’s consultation, we agree that funding for qualifications with low or no enrolments should have their funding reviewed. A consultation is welcome as it will enable us to make the case for strategically important qualifications with a very low number of students.

"But colleges and schools are much more concerned about an issue that involves a very high number of students – and that is the future of applied general qualifications. Removing funding for unpopular qualifications is one thing, but removing funding for popular and highly effective qualifications like AGQs is quite another, and we will continue to make the case for these qualifications playing a vital role in the future”.

Tom Bewick, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, said the organisation's members would have few concerns with a "genuine housekeeping exercise that removes qualifications which are obviously no longer needed by learners and employers". "The vocational training marketplace evolves all the time, so there are bound to be obsolete qualifications on the register that will discontinue in future," he said. 
“However, we know from past experience, that some really adverse effects can arise where a top-down exercise in Whitehall leads to learners being cut off from valuable and relevant opportunities in their local communities. There are hundreds of niche qualifications with low enrolments or they serve those with special educational needs, that could be axed by this exercise if government does not proceed with some caution."
Mr Bewick added: “We should also remember that adult learning has collapsed in recent years. Over four million adults have already been lost to the system, according to the annual participation survey, so government should be mindful of unintended consequences of these reforms. Qualifications below level 3 provide important confidence building and employability skills. That’s why we need to ensure that there continues to be a significant number of entry-level and intermediate qualifications available for public support in future.”  

The full list of qualifications at risk of losing funding can be found here

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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