The National Council for Vocational Qualifications has been presenting misleading information about the number of NVQs being taken, the author of a new report said this week.
Peter Robinson, research officer with the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, said the council and its chief executive, John Hillier, had been able to state that more than three million people were working towards an NVQ because no one, including the Department for Education and Employment, had tried to stop it from doing so.
The publication this week of Mr Robinson's report, Rhetoric and Reality: Britain's new vocational qualifications, has embarrassed the Government, which claimed that one million people held an NVQ.
However, the report stated that 660,000 people, the number used in the DFEE's annual report published in March, were working towards an NVQ.
The research has provoked a hostile response from Mr Hillier, who wrote in a letter to the Financial Times on Wednesday this week that the report was "liable to cause more confusion that clarification".
The main criticism levelled by the NCVQ and the DFEE against the findings was that the most recent data was not used in the report. Mr Robinson said the figures used were for December 1995.
DFEE data subsequently released stated that 1.2 million held an NVQ and 799,000 people were studying for one in spring 1996. The latter figure was still far short of the NCVQ's claims.
"[The Dfee] don't seem really to be challenging any of the substantive conclusions," Mr Robinson said.
The report also pointed out that a disproportionate number of NVQs were taken in the clerical, sales and personal services fields, and they had failed to penetrate manufacturing or financial services.
The Gatsby Foundation, which funded the LSE/Institute of Education research, will hold a seminar on October 21 to discuss the issues raised by the report.