Universities neglect vocational skills

February 17, 1995

Universities are too ill-informed about the new wave of vocational qualifications to take advantage of the benefits they offer, a report by the Higher Education Quality Council will reveal next week.

The report, Vocational Qualifications and Standards in Focus, says that institutions lack information particularly on pilot projects and changes in policy. It suggests that universities find out more about the employment benefits to their graduates of attaining skills in spheres such as IT and languages.

Universities should clarify the purposes and standards of their degrees and diplomas so that they can determine the best ways of linking these programmes with NVQs. The report also suggests that institutions consider whether all graduates, regardless of degree subject, should be expected to attain general skills assessed through NVQs.

The report author, Peter Wright, assistant director in the quality enhancement group of the HEQC, doubts whether universities, other than the Open University, can become NVQawarding bodies, pointing out that the administrative costs would be too difficult to recoup unless a substantial number of candidates paid registration fees. He cites viable alternatives such as consortia of universities and networks of regional agencies.

About 50 universities offer NVQs, mainly in management and teacher training. The report says that more fields could be covered, including pre-vocational training for lawyers, and emphasises that NVQs attract tax relief which allow institutions to cut fees and admit more students.

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