Willetts: Boost support for non-university students

Lord Willetts calls for post-18 review to look at 'bold approach and radical new options' for alternatives to university

Stephen Exley

David Willetts on post-18 education review

More maintenance support is needed for students taking higher-level qualifications in FE colleges, a former universities minister has claimed.

David Willetts, now executive chair of the Resolution Foundation thinktank, has called for the government’s review of post-18 education to focus on tackling provision for the half of young people who do not go to universities.

The review, chair by Philip Augar, should offer a “bold approach and radical new options”, Lord Willetts told the Employment and Skills Convention in London today.

'Some problems' at level 4 and 5

While he argued that increasing the number of people studying at university was “one of the great progressive forces”, Lord Willetts said it was now time to look at non-university provision – not least at level 4 and 5, which is currently being reviewed by the Department for Education.

“When you look at it, we clearly do have some problems with people getting level 4 and level 5 qualifications: HNCs, HNDs,” he told the convention, organised by the Learning and Work Institute. “Qualifications that, in one parlance, would be degrees but not honours degrees. Those levels, level 4 and level 5, are where Britain seems to underperform.

Learners 'may not get any maintenance support'

“And when you dig into the detail, you see some of the reasons. It’s much harder to get a student loan for those courses than at university. If they are not at university, you may well not get any kind of maintenance support. So there are some practical areas here which Philip Augar could look at in his review, so that those sub-honours degrees qualifications, students doing those, get as good a package as students doing honours degrees.

“We think that could help level 4 and level 5. And that would not just include studying in universities, but studying in FE colleges.”

Lord Willetts was universities minister under David Cameron from 2010-2014.

Speaking at the national conference of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers last month, Mr Augar said the post-18 review has received a substantial number of submissions calling for greater investment in the FE sector.



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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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