Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 59

Submission from London Higher



  1.  London Higher contends that the proposed withdrawal of support for ELQs is a policy change based on no evidence and rushed through with minimal consultation. Little thought appears to have been given on the ramifications for individuals and institutions.

  2.  There are regional aspects to the ELQ proposal which have seemingly not been considered. The proposal will have a disproportionate impact on London, with unintended social consequences especially for ethnic minority, refugee communities and for women HE students. Through knock-on effects, the ELQ changes will undermine London's role in driving the national economy, reducing its status as a world capital city.

  3.  We strongly urge the Secretary of State to defer implementation of the ELQ proposal until such time as a full, comprehensive study has been carried out with the involvement of the HE sector and institutions have had time to develop appropriate and sustainable adjustments.


  4.  London Higher is the Higher Education Regional Association (HERA) for London and represents over 40 London universities and specialist colleges.

  5.  Our remit includes promoting London's universities and colleges, coordinating strategic London higher education (HE) campaigns and disseminating information.


  6.  Overall, the ELQ proposal threatens to undermine vitally important parts of the London economy and skills base. By diverting resources to lower level skills (Foundations Degrees) rather than higher level skills—which are already in critical demand in London's economy—the changes will effectively devalue London's workforce. This will both make the capital less competitive in the world economy and will result in equally detrimental social impacts. The economy of London is the powerhouse behind that of the UK; damage to the former will adversely affect the latter.

  7.  Career progression in many professions is highly fluid but the ELQ proposal views it as rigidly linear. Recent surveys indicate that 43% of jobs in London require higher level skills (HLS), compared to just 30% in the rest of England and Wales. The HLS requirement in London is projected to increase to around 50% in 2020, higher than the expected 42% average across the UK. ELQs are vitally important for acquiring HLS, for example by graduates who may have completed a degree 5-10 years previously and wish to obtain a vocational skill but not at Masters or PhD level.

  8.  ELQs are also highly necessary for updating skills in many sectors as new practices or processes are introduced, eg health, teaching, business. Continuous Professional Development needs to occur for all levels of qualifications. London is a centre for professional specialist and postgraduate training, much of it based around the world class research infrastructure that exists in the capital. Analysis of the limited data available indicates subjects with a strong tradition in these areas, for example several subjects allied to medicine and in education, will be markedly affected to the detriment of the individuals concerned.

  9.  There is no substantive evidence to prove the so called "build-back" from Foundation Degrees and employer co-funding will succeed. For example, in London's creative sector—the second largest sector in the capital—businesses lack the capacity to co-fund. Eight of the top 20 London HEIs affected by the proposals are creative arts institutions. In addition, it is doubtful that large companies in London will invest in higher education, since the economic and cultural benefits of working in the capital mean that recruitment is often global. Hence there is little incentive for employers to upskill/retrain staff as opposed to seeking overseas candidates with appropriate higher level skills, to the detriment of London's work force.

  10.  The introduction of these proposals, without previous comprehensive impact analyses will risk unintended consequences for London's large ethnic minority and refugee communities as well as a likely disproportionate impact on women students. Many refugees arrive with degrees but need to retrain at lower levels, for example in health (eg pharmacy, nursing) or education. Furthemore, shared teaching on some courses may mean that the reduction of ELQs in one subject area leads indirectly to possible course closures in related subjects, undermining the core missions of several London HE institutions. HEFCE are due to report on an impact analysis this month (January 2008) but it remains to be seen what concessions will be made. Why were these analyses not done before the policy change was announced rather than during the very brief consultation period?

  11.  Based on HEFCE data, London HE institutions will lose £54 million at ELQ level, a third of all national losses. Besides Birkbeck and Open University in London, other London HEIs severly affected (>10% ELQ loss) include Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (26%), London Business School (25%), School of Pharmacy (15%), London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (14%), Thames Valley University (13%), City University (13%) and University of East London (11%).

  12.  Overall, 54,504 students will be affected nationally by these changes, based on HEFCE data. DIUS claims 20,000 new students will benefit from ELQ changes. Besides asking how precisely the latter figure has been determined, this does not seem to be a reasonable balance in provision of funding resources.

  13.  Finally, little mention has been made so far on how qualifications will be recorded and verified. Is a secure national database required and how retrospective will the data collection be?


  14.  We strongly urge that implementation of this policy should be deferred until questions are resolved on issues such as effects on students (especially women and ethnic minorities) and financial adjustments by HE institutions.

  15.  We believe that the proposals have been formulated without sufficient regard to the likely impacts across a range of areas and are detrimental to a number of longstanding Government and national as well as regional interests. The proposals clearly impact disproportionately on London and on London's HE sector. They have also been introduced with undue haste and are being pushed through far too quickly for institutions to adapt to them without unnecessary risk.

January 2008

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