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What does the Augar review mean for BTEC Higher Nationals?

Tue, 06/18/2019 - 08:12
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On 30 May the government released the independent panel report into post-18 education and funding chaired by Philip Augar. The key messages of flexibility and access, status for level 4 and 5, and partnership in and quality of delivery come through strongly in the report. 

The report supports the noises coming out of the DfE review of Higher Technical Education in its recommendation to streamline the number of qualifications available at levels 4 and 5 and to improve the status of these levels of education. 

It talks about the use of kitemarks to demonstrate which qualifications in this space meet employer-led standards - in the long term only ‘kitemarked’ qualifications will be able to charge up to the proposed £7,500 fee cap. These changes could be positive for the HNs, which are already designed and built on strong employer and professional body engagement.

More flexible and accessible ways of learning

The panel want an equitable HE system which is accessible to all. To remedy some of the access issues they propose the introduction of a lifelong learning loan allowance (equivalent to four years of undergraduate degree funding), which can be drawn down for the student’s lifetime. They also want this funding to be accessible one module at a time to maximise flexibility and respond quickly to labour demands.

Further, they want to remove rules which stop students taking out loans for levels 4-6 study if they have already been funded at this level. All of these changes are positive for future HN students. The flexible nature of funding (modular and lifelong) and the ability to draw down funding across the student’s lifetime could have the effect of supporting HN uptake via flexible models, for example upskilling and reskilling in the workplace, and through part-time study.

The report also proposes changes which are designed to support access to HE for all groups, including disadvantaged groups, and to support lifelong access to HE. It suggests that the government should restore maintenance grants for socio-economically disadvantaged students to at least £3,000 a year and that the proposed post-18 maintenance support package should be provided for all students taking Level 4 to 6 qualifications. Again, good news for HN students who might need to access this support.

Redesigning the regulations

A range of points made through the report pick up on the need to streamline regulation, including recommendations that the OfS should become the national regulator for all non-apprenticeship provision at Levels 4 and above. 

The panel also suggests that the OfS and the ESFA should establish a joint working party to align the requirements they place on providers and improve the interactions and exchange of information between these bodies. The hope is that regulatory complexity will be reduced, in turn reducing the regulatory burden on providers offering HNs as standalone qualifications, and also within Higher Apprenticeships.

The role of Further Education colleges

The report dedicates an important chapter to the role of Further Education colleges (FECs) in delivering higher education (and also in delivering levels 2 and 3, to support student achievement underpinning their entry to level 4 and above study). The vision is for a ‘national network of collaborative FECs that provide high quality technical and professional education with a clear focus on Levels 3, 4 and 5, delivered flexibly and aligned to the needs of local economies’.

Some of the proposals to meet this vision include:

  • Additional support and capital funding to the tune of £1 billion for FECs, allocated on a strategic national basis in-line with Industrial Strategy priorities to ensure a national network of high quality provision of technical and professional education. We may see some of this funding being allocated to government backed institution types like the National Colleges, and 12 new Institutes of Technology (IoTs).
  • A range of recommendations around distribution of colleges around the country to better support student access for HE. 
  • Proposals for investment in the FE workforce to improve recruitment and retention.

All of these measures should be good news for current and potential HN students, as they are designed to strengthen the quality of delivery in the colleges that deliver them, and improve student access to higher education. 

The report is robust and wide ranging, posing some exciting questions and also potential new avenues for Pearson’s BTEC Higher National provision, but there is much to be worked through and we’ll be keeping close to further reports and consultations as they emerge. Pearson are already working with colleges which have been successful in their bid to become IoTs and we will continue to build on the place of HNs in the college higher technical space. 

As Rosa Wells, Director of Employment and Skills at Solihull College and University Centre, part of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull IoT, says ‘We have ensured that BTEC Higher Nationals in Engineering sit at the heart of the IoT offer as a tried and tested approach to supporting non-traditional learners to transition into Higher Education as well as developing essential skills to secure career progression.’ 

Rebecca Mameli

Hi! I'm the Head of Higher Education Research and Qualifications in the Higher Education Qualifications team at Pearson.

My role is to manage the Higher Nationals qualification development team and process. We ensure that the HNs are designed in the most exciting and robust way possible, meeting the needs of students. I work across a range of subject areas from Business to Art and Design, making sure that HNs are designed to the highest quality principles and standards. 

When I’m not at work I like to try and learn Italian, and I’m a big fan of eating out,and music in all its forms.


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