Attacks on vocational study are 'confused and out of date'

August 23, 2002

Vocational higher education leaders have hit back at captains of industry who claim university education has been dumbed down by falling entry standards, writes Tony Tysome.

The University Vocational Awards Council has described the criticisms from the Institute of Directors as "ill-informed", "confused" and "out of date".

In a report published last month, the IoD says the government's 50 per cent higher education participation target is "ludicrous". It says that there is evidence of endemic grade inflation, with too many school-leavers being "siphoned off" to universities to study "soft" subjects such as media studies.

More students should be encouraged to take vocational courses in subjects such as plumbing, the IoD says.

Uvac, which is preparing to publish its policy statement promoting vocational higher education next month, has accused the IoD of wanting to return to a system that has left the UK with a gaping skills gap and a literacy and numeracy problem.

Its chairman, Leeds Metropolitan University vice-chancellor Leslie Wagner, said Uvac hoped to "dispel some of the ill-informed comments that have been made".

He said: "The IoD has confused levels of educational qualifications with types of qualifications. The notion that vocational study is all further education, and academic study all higher education, is decades out of date."

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