Up to a third of all Government-approved job-related training schemes face the axe in a cull of national vocational qualifications this autumn.
The clear-out of courses devised to meet industry's needs is part of a programme to cut wasteful bureaucracy. More rigorous independent inspections of workplace and college courses will be introduced.
The survival of college restaurants and beauty salons could depend on the approval of inspectors and the new Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. Industry will also be asked to judge whether courses meet their needs.
The waste in the national flagship qualifications was revealed in The TES (April 25). Previously unpublished figures showed that more than 40 per cent of NVQ courses had been completed by just one trainee - or by no one at all.
The Tory government poured Pounds 79 million into the NVQ system at a time of deep cuts to schools. The structure of NVQs, the jargon and lack of relevance to employers had earlier been exposed in a review by Sir Gordon Beaumont.
New rules and a beefed-up code of practice were announced by education and employment minister Baroness Blackstone this week to address those criticisms.
The cull will take place as each NVQ and (Scottish) SVQ comes up for review. Some will survive by being absorbed into other qualifications - but only if they meet the needs of industry. The new QCA will oversee all qualifications, and national training organisations for all occupations will strengthen the employers' hands.
But critics have accused the Government of not addressing criticisms of the NVQ structure. Two-thirds of the 16,000 vocational qualifications available are outside the NVQ framework.
Lady Blackstone insisted that "guarantees of quality" for those qualifications not currently subject to any kind of public supervision will be required.
But government sources said that non-NVQ qualifications would not be forced to come into the framework.
Such courses include those which develop skills through simulated work experience. These are taken by thousands of college students who cannot get into the workplace. In order to survive, these courses will have to demonstrate high quality and show that, when their trainees finally take up a job, they quickly acquire the necessary skills for a full NVQ.
But Alan Smithers, director of Brunel University's Centre for Education and Employment Studies, and a constant critic of NVQs, remained sceptical. "If you have a national system and two-thirds of qualifications can remain outside it, then something is wrong."