The number of vocational qualifications being awarded to learners in England has fallen for only the second time in the past eight years, after the government cut funding for courses it said did not deliver quality education.
Ofqual figures show that 654,100 fewer vocational qualifications were awarded in the 2013-14 academic year than in 2012-13. Numbers were down from 9,188,300 to 8,534,200, a drop of 7 per cent.
Earlier this year, the Skills Funding Agency targeted resources towards qualifications that aligned with the government's skills policy, removing funding from those that were not deemed to give learners sufficient knowledge or skills to progress into employment or further learning.
A government spokesperson said: "This may have had the effect of reducing the total number of certificates awarded, but we feel that the rigour and relevance of vocational qualifications is more important than numbers alone.
"We believe that our policies are effective in making sure that the adult skills budget is focused on those qualifications which deliver most benefit to learners and are of the most value to employers."
The announcement came after separate government figures showed that the numbers of adults learning had also fallen by 10.7 per cent in the same period.
David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace), said that the statistics were not surprising given the reduction in funding.
"Niace has focused on how we support more investment by employers and individuals to stem the decline in participation and achievement," he said.
"We need to find ways to increase investment overall if we are to achieve inclusive economic growth and opportunities for people to get on in work and in life."