A new £3 million vocational education research centre is to be set up in England to provide world-class research into technical skills and to influence government policy, it has emerged.
According to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) website, the new centre is to become the main body of independent expertise and policy advice for the vocational sector.
Professor Alison Wolf, the author of the landmark Wolf Report into vocational education, is to head up the board of the new centre, as well as assess the bids to run it.
The BIS website says the centre will receive funding from BIS of around £1 million a year for three years, with a possible extension to five years.
Its aim will be to connect UK policymakers with international expertise, research and best practice in boosting skill levels.
One of its other roles will be to develop, share and make best use of data.
The website lists a number of questions the new centre may need to address.
These include the impact of vocational skills on economic growth, the role of training in helping unemployed people back to work, how employers approach vocational education and the use of innovation, particularly through new technology.
The bidding process is open now. The BIS website states: “There are no restrictions on the location of the centre or the number of organisations within a bid.
“Any bid needs to prove that the centre will develop and follow a clear strategic research and communication plan.”
Jan Hodges, CEO of vocational education charity the Edge Foundation, said: “We very much welcome the news that BIS is to develop a centre and an independent research programme specifically dedicated to vocational education. This is an under-researched area.
“We know there are many paths to success and that a wholly academic route does not suit everyone. Edge champions technical, practical and vocational learning and the availability of independent research will support and add weight to our work.”
Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive and director of research at the Association of Colleges, said: “There is huge potential value in creating a vocational educational research centre and we’re pleased the Government has recognised this.
"In particular, the Government’s pledge that funding will be in place for three to five years and that the centre will have access to national data should ensure it has a firm foundation for success."