Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 46

Submission from the Learning and Skills Council


  1.  This document is the submission of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee inquiry into students and universities.

2.  The purpose of this document is to inform the Committee of the contribution made by colleges and independent providers in the further education sector to the provision of higher education in England. Whilst supporting learners progressing into higher education, the sector makes a significant contribution to the development of higher level skills for those entering work and for those already in work.


  3.  Around 30% of 16 year olds who remain in learning do so in general further education colleges, with a further 10% progressing to sixth form colleges. Those figures are broadly replicated in subsequent progression into higher education, where over 40% of entrants are from the further education and sixth form college sectors.

4.  Fundamental to the work of the LSC has been the promotion and support of achievement of a full Level 2 qualification, as the minimum set of

qualifications needed to get on in life. The data above make it clear, however, how important it will be to continue to support and encourage Level 3 provision in the further education sector, in order to maintain progress to the Government's aspirations for higher education participation.


  5.  Further education (FE) colleges in England teach around 11% of the students studying on courses leading to higher education and higher level qualifications (HE) in England. The total number of HE students in FE is in the order of 200,000.

6.  Over 300 further education sector colleges (out of a total of 370) deliver some higher education, either "prescribed" (as defined by the Education Reform Act 1988, and not eligible for funding by the LSC) or "non-prescribed).

  7.  Whilst for most further education colleges HE is a relatively small part of their overall provision, it is still significant, with as many as 5,000 full-time and part-time HE students in some colleges. Indeed, since the incorporation of further education colleges in 1992, a number of specialist arts and agricultural colleges have transferred from the FE sector to the HE sector as more appropriately reflecting the balance of their provision.

  8.  Compared to the HE sector, HE students in FE are more likely to be over 25, to study part-time, to study locally to their home, and to come from areas with low rates of HE participation. As such, HE in FE makes an important contribution to widening participation in HE.

  9.  Higher Education is delivered by further education colleges in a variety of ways:

    — prescribed higher education directly funded by HEFCE

    — prescribed higher education delivered under franchise or consortia arrangements with higher education institutions and funded indirectly by HEFCE

    — non-prescribed higher education funded by the LSC

    — prescribed and non-prescribed higher education funded by other bodies.

  10.  Between 2002 and 2005, some 90% of this provision reviewed by the Quality Assurance Agency received "confidence" judgement in respect of academic standards, and 99% received "commendable" or "approved" judgements in respect of the quality of learning opportunities.

Prescribed higher education directly funded by HEFCE

  11.  For the academic year 2008-09, HEFCE has allocated a total of £176 million for directly funded higher education at 124 further education colleges, ranging from £14,000 at Totton College to over £10.6 million at Newcastle College. Around 70,000 students are covered by this provision.

Prescribed higher education delivered under franchise or consortia arrangements with higher education institutions

12.  HE students being taught in FE under franchise or consortia arrangements will be recorded as registered students of the appropriate HE institutions, and may attend the FE college for all, or part, of their programme. The number of such students is not, therefore, easily identified from administrative data, but a study by HEFCE in 2006 identified over 51,000 students registered at HEIs but taught in further education colleges in England.

Non-prescribed higher education funded by the LSC

13.  The LSC will fund over 1,200 qualifications at Level 4, and almost 150 at Level 5. This provision includes qualifications such as the Diploma in Accounting awarded by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). Around 75,000 learners pursue these programmes.

Prescribed and non-prescribed higher education funded by other bodies.

14.  In addition to the groups identified above, there are known to be small numbers of HE learners in FE who are not funded directly by HEFCE or LSC. Examples of such learners would include those fully-funded by their employers, which might be private or public sector organisations.

Capital allocations for HE provision

15.  The LSC has been working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to help ensure that there are no barriers to the development of new HE facilities in FE colleges or the development of new FE facilities in HE institutions. Depending on the circumstances of each provider, funding will be available from different sources.

16.  In particular where HE activity in FE colleges is below 20% percent of the total provision, the LSC, as now will provide capital funding for the totality of FE and HE activity. Where FE activity in HEIs is below a certain percentage the HEFCE has responsibility to provide capital funding for the totality of FE and HE activity. In these cases the HEFCE would provide capital funding to HEIs. Where an allocation/formula basis was applied the formula would include both FE and HE activity;

Level 4 Apprenticeships

  17.  Progression for learners into, within and beyond Apprenticeships is a key aspect of the World Class Apprenticeships requirement for a new Blueprint for Apprenticeships. Trials of Higher Apprenticeships at Level 4 have been developed in some sectors, most of which include the NVQ at Level 4 and a Foundation Degree. Consultation on the new Blueprint will include a proposal to include Level 4 Apprenticeships across all sectors as well as detailing clear progression routes within the sector itself through professional qualifications. The LSC has recently undertaking a project to align UCAS tariff points with a small selection of Advanced Apprenticeship framework, thereby providing a clear route for learners into higher education. Plans are currently being developed to align all Advanced Apprenticeship frameworks to this model.


  18.  Finally, and for completeness, it should be noted that around 30 higher education institutions enrol learners who are funded by the LSC, totalling some £80 million. In most cases these learners are on foundation year programmes leading to progression to a degree programme at the same institution, but in a small number of cases, mainly as a result of institutional mergers, the HEI delivers general FE. A particular example would be Thames Valley University, which merged in 2004 with Reading College and School of Arts and Design, and has over 20,000 young people and adults on roll who are funded by the LSC (resulting in an allocation of over £19 million in 2007-08); the university, as the further education provider for the area, is also involved in the Young Apprenticeship programme for 14-16 year olds and in the delivery of the new Diplomas.

December 2008

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2009
Prepared 2 August 2009