Higher Technical Education Reform

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:58 pm on 8th July 2019.

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Photo of Nadhim Zahawi Nadhim Zahawi The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education 4:58 pm, 8th July 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. He asked a number of questions. I will attempt to address most of them, and if I do not I will happily write to him after this statement. He asked whether there will continue to be one type of recognised qualification at this level. Of course, he will know that there are individual examples of high-quality qualifications that are well recognised by employers—pharmacy, for example. These qualifications cater for a diverse set of situations and students, including people from a range of backgrounds studying for various purposes and a large volume of adult learners. We propose to maintain this diverse and competitive market through an opt-in system that enables more than one qualification to be approved against a given occupational standard. We want all higher technical qualifications that provide the knowledge, skills and behaviours that employers need to get the recognition they deserve. This is in contrast to the position for T-levels, where, as recommended by the Independent Panel on Technical Education, only one qualification is approved per occupation or group of occupations.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the issue of wider funding to deliver reforms. Of course we recognise that financial arrangements, or incentives, are important in delivering these reforms. We want to ensure that public funding for the delivery of higher technical education is focused on providers that meet the Office for Students’ proposed technical ongoing registration conditions.

We will be considering funding proposals as part of the spending review. The hon. Gentleman has heard that from the Dispatch Box on many occasions, but it is an important consideration. We are also seeking views through the consultation on how we can support providers to develop their workforce and engage with employers through non-financial incentives. I remind the Opposition that the funding that is available for investment in apprenticeships will reach over £2.5 billion in 2019-20—double what it was in 2010-11. So more money is going into the system for these apprenticeships.

On the hon. Gentleman’s slightly frivolous point about the negotiations with the EU, we do need to deliver a Brexit by 31 October. I am surprised that the Opposition have changed their position on this considering how many of their heartlands in the north feel about that issue, but I will leave it there. We have made no-deal preparations in the Department and I feel confident that we will be ready if that is the position—not that we want it to be. We want a deal, of course.