Labour launches ‘technical degrees’ policy

The Labour Party will introduce new “technical degrees” if it is elected at next May’s general election.

July 8, 2014

Source: cooperman / Shutterstock.com

Ed Miliband

These new qualifications will be the party’s “priority” when expanding university places if it wins power next year, although it is not yet clear exactly how it will incentivise universities to offer the new courses.

Speaking this morning, Labour leader Ed Miliband explained that the degrees would be jointly designed by universities and businesses and would have equal status to more “academic” degrees.

At a conference organised by educational charity the Sutton Trust, Mr Miliband said he was “proud” of the previous Labour government’s record of expanding higher education but added: “The conventional academic route doesn’t work for everyone.”

“Our priority for the expansion of universities will be on technical degrees,” he said, mentioning design, engineering and information and communications technology as subjects that could feature in the new qualifications.

Asked how the technical degrees would be different from the courses currently on offer at universities, Mr Miliband said that students would learn both at university and in the workplace.

“People will be getting a wage when they do this degree as part of the apprenticeship,” he said, and added: “These will be courses co-designed between business and universities.”

Mr Miliband stressed that expanding technical degrees would be the “priority” for a Labour government but this would not mean cutting the number of students on more academic courses.

Asked whether there would be a number of places set aside for technical degree students, Mr Miliband said that the party had not finalised the details of the policy.

“We’re looking at the issue of university expansion…how it’s going to be affordable, how it’s consistent with all the other things we want to do,” he said.

“There will be more to say about this between now and the general election, but today we’re setting out the principle that this is the priority for expansion.”

He said that the measure was the culmination of “One Nation” Labour’s vocational education reform programme to ensure that Britain and business is equipped with the skills needed to succeed in the future.

Other measures to improve vocational qualifications would include the creation of a Technical Baccalaureate for 16 to 19 year-olds, requiring all young people to continue studying English and Maths to 18 and raising the quality of further education by requiring lecturers to hold teaching qualifications.

The speech follows a poll by the Sutton Trust which shows that one third (34 per cent) of people say a degree-level apprenticeship would be better for somebody’s future career prospects than a university degree.

Only two in ten (21 per cent) think a traditional degree would be better, it also says.

Liam Byrne’s view:

Liam Byrne

With under 10 months to go to the general election, the battle of ideas is taking shape.

We know the Conservative Party’s script – and we know its flaws. But over the last fortnight a battery of reports have made the case for a different way forward. An approach that fosters faster growth – and growth that is more fairly shared. And running like a golden thread through the IPPR’s Condition of Britain report, Mike Wright’s review of supply chain needs, and Lord Adonis’ review of growth is one challenge: transforming Britain’s skills base.

That’s why I’m confident that the years ahead could be a golden age for educators: where we unite our teachers’ passion for public service and mission to teach in a movement that sets our country on a new and better path.

In a speech on 8 July, the Labour leader Ed Miliband set out one of the changes that we believe will help: Technical Degrees that give hundreds of thousands of people in Britain the chance to take a vocational route to the very highest level of skill. We’re clear: business needs it and workers - and students – want it.

All over Britain evidence of the country’s skills shortage is piling up. And it’s now clear that young people want a real choice of a vocational path to higher professional and technical skills. The Sutton Trust has published survey results showing that over 50 per cent of young people are very or fairly interested in doing an apprenticeship for a job they want to do, rather than going to university.

But right now, it’s very hard to pursue a vocational path to the highest level of qualification. Last year, the number of apprenticeships for the under-25s actually fell by 11,400.  And just 2 per cent of apprentices each year get the chance to study a degree. That is simply not good enough. The lack of supply means that it’s harder to secure a place with a firm sponsors students to degree level than it is to get into the University of Oxford.

We want a prestigious path for vocational education. A high quality vocational qualification – the Tech Bacc – available for 16 to 19-year-olds. English and Maths taught up to the age of 18. A drive to raise standards across further education to the level of the best, licencing Institutes of Technical Excellence. A big expansion of apprenticeship numbers delivered by harnessing the power of public procurement to encourage more firms to offer more apprenticeship opportunities, and a ‘something for something’ deal with employers offering more control over apprenticeship qualifications and funding, in return for more high quality opportunities.

Now, we’re taking the next step; prioritising Technical Degrees as our priority for expanding higher education. Not a second class choice, but the chance for universities, business, and college partners to work together to create degree-level programmes that can be delivered to those in work.

We’ve still got plenty of work to do to develop the detail behind our ideas; but we’re clear about our ambition. A country where there are many paths – not just one – to learn and train to the standard of the very best.

Liam Byrne is the Labour shadow minister for universities, science and skills.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Reader's comments (4)

The new 'trailblazer' apprenticeship Standards are already being vigorously rolled out at level 3 technician grade, which enjoy the taught element provided 'free' by the FE sector e.g. national diplomas. Higher Apprenticeships are also possible but usually require professional qualifications as an outcome, which means HE courses such as part time BSc degree, HNC/D, or Foundation degree, and £9000pa in courses fees. Hard to see government or companies funding much of that burden.
We need a transformation in STEM Vocational Education-Not just relabeling of qualifications. Last week NEF: The Innovation Institute launched its report “Inventing the Future: Stimulating STEM Economies”. The Institute is calling for: * New-style polytechnics to act as regional innovation hubs * Local enterprise partnerships and chambers of commerce to coordinate long term regional STEM education strategy * Innovation tax credits to be extended to include technical skills development and specialist capital investment in education * The development of differentiated technology clusters across the UK * Better exchange of personnel between industry and academia * Creating effective learning habitat using “Design for Learning” NEF: The Innovation Institute is calling for a revolution in education – including the reintroduction of polytechnic - to help the UK keep pace with rapid technological change across all science, technology, engineering and manufacturing based sectors. Over 100 companies took part in this study. The study highlighted the misalignment between industry demand and courses as much as 80% in worst case scenarios. NEF is also advocating the introduction of "Design for Learning" to create a new Learning Habitat. It supports the notion of vertical integration of education provision from pre-university up to Masters level. It points out that the academic levels of today are very likely to be redundant over the coming decade and it warns against using academic levels as proxy for funding allocation. The report suggests the use of crowd-funding style aggregators with LEPs providing baseline funding to address funding requirements at a regional level. The report can be found here: http://www.thenef.org.uk/inventing_the_future
" New-style polytechnics to act as regional innovation hubs * Local enterprise partnerships and chambers of commerce to coordinate long term regional STEM education strategy * Innovation tax credits to be extended to include technical skills development and specialist capital investment in education * The development of differentiated technology clusters across the UK * Better exchange of personnel between industry and academia * Creating effective learning habitat using “Design for Learning” NEF: The Innovation Institute is calling for a revolution in education – including the reintroduction of polytechnic - to help the UK keep pace with rapid technological change across all science, technology, engineering and manufacturing based sectors" The Polytechnics whose status was "upgraded to University" had all the above ingredients in their mission in some form or another. Reinventing Polytechnics in some form is like re-inventing the wheel. The New Labour of which Byrne was enthusiastic supporter once , was strongly supporting the the New Universities - their minister for Higher Education Rammell, was everytime in pontification mood to shout how good these new universities were. Now this Labour has this sound bite. Just make these new universities to revert back to their fomer status, and then augment them with the above ideas. Abolish their " global university" delusion and make them to work in their local and national constituencies, recruiting students from there as before.
I would not believe anything coming from: ""Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck! Liam." Byrne.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest