Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 68

Submission from the Institute of Education, University of London

  The Institute of Education is a specialist institution and a world class centre of excellence for teaching, research and consultancy in education and related areas of social science and professional practice.


  Much of the public debate around this policy has focused on the impact of ELQ proposals on under-graduate provision and, in particular, on students and providers of part-time courses such as those offered at Birkbeck and the Open University. It is clear, however, that a number of other institutions will be negatively affected, such as those with specialist missions, a predominantly post-graduate focus and those offering professionally relevant qualifications. Although this may be an unintended consequence of the ELQ proposals, it is crucial, amidst the current attention to large-scale providers of part-time undergraduate degrees, that we do not lose sight of the important policy ramifications for specialist institutions.

  The Institute welcomes the proposed provision of "safety net" funding to maintain each institution's grant at a comparable cash level to that of 2007-08, but is concerned that this would, in fact, represent a reduction in institutional funding in real terms.

  We have a number of further concerns about the proposals as they currently stand. In particular, there is a need to:

    —  Clarify the notion of "level" in the application of the policy in order to address those instances where an apparently equivalent or lower qualification represents a genuine and necessary progression from a previously held qualification.

    —  Clarify the status of teachers and lecturers in Further Education (FE) in terms of:

(a)  confirmation that Initial Teacher Training (ITT) for FE teachers (whether via the PGCE or through other routes) will be covered by the exemption that is proposed for school teachers whose funding is provided by the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

(b)  confirmation of support, equivalent to that proposed for school teachers, for qualifications that develop FE teachers' professional understanding and skills.

    —  Confirm that the exemption of ITT for school teachers applies not only to entry to study for an "M" level PGCE, but also to students' future study at "M" level in the context of a professionally relevant Master's degree.

    —  Clarify whether HEFCE plans to provide an alternative funding stream to enable institutions to fund courses for university lecturers studying for ELQs which support the development of their teaching skills.



  1.1  In this submission, however, we address those issues which, in particular, affect the Institute of Education and similar institutions.

  1.2  Our own concerns nevertheless reflect a more widespread unease that the Government's decision is at odds with a broad range of national educational priorities, not least the recommendations of the Leitch Review, the need for a professionalised teaching force in the post-compulsory sector, the Government's 14-19 agenda, and the widening participation agenda for the university sector.



  2.1  The Government's decision came at extremely short notice, with the consequence that the Institute and other education providers were obliged to complete a great deal of detailed and considered work in a very short space of time. The policy process itself might have benefited from a consultation with education providers a year in advance of the decision, rather than the retrospective HEFCE consultation on the interpretation and implementation of the Government's policy. Whilst HEFCE was able, within the limited consultation period, to carry out some analysis of the impact of their proposals on disproportionately affected students (eg in terms of gender, age, regional differences), these issues would certainly benefit from further detailed analysis.


Safety net funding

  2.2  We welcome the proposed provision of "safety net" funding to maintain each institution's grant at a comparable 2007-08 level in cash terms. It is vital for institutional stability, and consistent with HEFCE policy, that "safety net" funding is provided. However, this "real terms" allocation would, in fact, represent a loss of institutional funding. We would also like the IUS committee to note that not all institutions have equal flexibility with regard to the re-orientation of their business over the period in which "safety net" funding is provided. Specialist institutions, in addition to being disproportionately affected by the policy, are particularly limited in this respect, and further mitigation may be required in these instances to maintain institutional stability.

Level of qualification/progression

  2.3  We are also concerned about the crude notion of "level" being employed by HEFCE in its interpretation of the proposed policy. There are clear instances where an apparently equivalent or lower qualification represents a genuine and necessary progression from a previously held qualification. The Institute believes that the definition of level being applied will prove a disincentive to institutions offering qualifications that provide a bridge between levels (eg specialist post-graduate certificates and diplomas) which aid progression and skills development. A more sophisticated model for qualifications is needed which recognises that some of the courses likely to be adversely affected by the policy as it stands actually aid the development of professional skills and understanding and thus constitute genuine progression for the individuals concerned.


  3.1  This submission highlights a number of neglected issues concerning the ELQ proposals. These include the impact of the proposals on post-graduate study and the development of high level skills in general, as well as on specialist institutions pursuing the delivery of professionally relevant qualifications.

  3.2  While we welcome the proposed exemptions, not least in relation to school teaching, we believe that the impact of the proposals on the sector as a whole may not be susceptible to adequate mitigation through the application of exemptions. Nevertheless, if exemptions are to provide a way forward, HEFCE should at least develop a broader set of exemptions which acknowledges that the ELQ proposals will adversely affect a wide range of public service professionals, including educational psychologists and pharmacists.

  3.3  The Institute wishes to draw attention to three areas of particular concern for the education sector:

    —  the position of teachers and lecturers in Further Education;

    —  the implications for professionally relevant further academic study on the part of qualified teachers generally; and

    —  the professional development of university teachers.

The impact on Further Education (FE)

  3.4  FE provision constitutes a key element in the delivery of the Government's 14-19 and skills agendas. The professionalisation of the skills workforce has been identified as a policy priority. However, in spite of a number of requests, DIUS has so far refused to confirm that Initial Teacher Training (ITT) for FE teachers (whether via the PGCE or through other routes) will be covered by the exemption that has been announced for trainee school teachers funded through the Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA).

  3.5  Furthermore, while the TDA have an identified funding stream for Post-graduate Professional Development for school teachers, which the TDA believes will be exempted from the policy, it is not clear that HEFCE will be able to fund FE teachers studying for ELQs to develop their professional understanding and skills and who would previously have taken up publicly-funded places. As a consequence, teachers in the FE sector could find themselves disadvantaged in comparison with their colleagues in statutory education, in terms of their professional standing and development, at a time when both groups are being encouraged to collaborate, eg in the development and provision of the Government's new Diploma qualifications.

  3.6  As FE providers are likely to be key partners in delivering the further widening of participation that the ELQ proposals are designed to promote, these likely impacts on FE provision appear to be a wholly counter-productive unintended consequence. As a result, the explicit exemption of ITT provision for the FE sector, together with confirmation that the professional development of FE teachers will be given equal priority to that of school teachers, are urgently needed.

Professionally relevant further academic study by qualified teachers

  3.7  The exemption of ITT for school teachers (and hopefully for FE teachers) appears to be predicated upon the PGCE being equivalent to an undergraduate award. The exemption, therefore, applies upon entry to a PGCE course. Thus holders of undergraduate degrees who later take a PGCE will be deemed to be studying for an ELQ but subject to an exemption. Across Higher Education ITT providers, the PGCE qualification has, in most cases, recently been formally defined as an "M" level award, either in whole or in part. It is therefore vital that the exemption for ITT applies not only on entry to study for a PGCE (or other ITT qualification), but also in relation to students' future study at "M" level, so that they can continue to be funded to complete a full Master's degree in a professionally relevant field.

  3.8  Without this exemption, the policy is likely to have negative consequences for professional progression beyond the PGCE for teachers taking courses that will develop their professional understanding. This would impact negatively upon the professionalisation and development of the compulsory and the post-compulsory teaching workforce at a time when a highly qualified teaching force has been recognised as a key element of world class education systems.

Training for teachers in Higher Education

  3.9  The logic applied to the compulsory (and hopefully the FE teaching workforce) in relation to the ELQ policy is not being applied to university teachers seeking to develop teaching skills. Under the current proposals HEFCE would not fund HE lecturers with high level qualifications in their academic subject specialisms studying for ELQs which support the development of their teaching skills. Such students would previously have taken up publicly-funded places. In the absence of alternative funding streams to support this unplanned change, this threatens the future viability of programmes supporting the development of university teachers and will thereby undermine the professional development of university teachers and lecturers, many of whom will be instrumental in the successful delivery of the Government's skills and widening participation agendas.


  4.1  The Government's decision is likely to affect a number of students disproportionately. In particular, there appears to be a differential impact on students studying in London. Analysis by LondonHigher shows that, of the institutions most affected (in terms of the percentage of income), eight of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20 are London institutions. In the majority of these cases, the institutions affected are also those with a specialist remit. There is thus a disproportionately negative impact on the London offer and more specifically the specialist offer. This runs contrary to the public interest as these offers provide skills for the London workforce (43% of jobs in London require higher-level skills, compared to 30% in the rest of England and Wales). As a consequence, these proposals are likely to result in a significant reduction in choice and access to appropriate level courses for London students.

  4.2  Gender and age participation is also likely to be negatively affected. Female graduates re-entering the job market after raising a family and/or older graduates needing to up- or re-skill will usually not have the benefit of employer support in doing so. The impact on older students is especially relevant to this Institute. Of all our students on Master's courses, 32% are over 40 and 12% are over 50 years of age. However, 49% of ELQ students on Master's courses are over 40 and 18% are over 50. Consequently, our older students will be disproportionately affected by the introduction of the ELQ policy as currently defined.


  5.1  We would like the IUS Select Committee to keep in mind that specialised institutions are diverse. Thus, an institution may have a specialism which is disciplinary and not simply related to mode of study. The ELQ proposals may have different consequences for institutions with a specialist disciplinary focus than for institutions with a specialist mode of study. The legitimate highlighting of challenges faced by institutions, such as Birkbeck and the Open University must not be allowed to divert attention from the equally important challenges faced by subject specialist institutions, such as the Institute of Education.[83] This is particularly important given that institutions with a disciplinary focus often serve predominantly post-graduate students, or offer post-graduate courses with professionally relevant qualifications, and as such tend to have a significant impact on the UK's economic competitiveness.

  5.2  It is clear that the ELQ proposals will impact disproportionately on these specialist institutions. Specialist institutions would make up over half those institutions experiencing the largest drop in income as a result of the current proposals. The weakening of their financial sustainability would have a number of consequences for the sector and for the delivery of several Government educational priorities. The policy would undermine HEFCE's strategic aim to maintain a diverse sector. The proposals threaten the skills agenda by undermining some of the institutions most able, through their specialist missions and professional links, to contribute to its development and delivery.

  5.3  Specialist institutions are not easily able to mitigate the consequences of the ELQ proposals. One option would involve developing their offer in a way that would access funding diverted from ELQ students. However, the nature of specialist institutions and their markets is inherently less flexible than that of multi-faculty providers. It has been suggested by DIUS that this Institute might develop significant under-graduate level provision in response to the ELQ policy. However, there is limited scope to develop such courses without diluting the Institute's specialist mission in a way that is unlikely to be in the public interest. Such a development is also unlikely to be cost-effective. For example, transforming the Institute's world-leading research library into an undergraduate library for a relatively small number of students would not seem a sensible use of limited resources.

January 2008

83   In fact, some institutions, including this Institute, have both a specialist subject focus and a predominantly part-time student body and are therefore affected by the policy in both respects. Back

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