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Leicester College Responds to National Augar Review into Post-18 Education and Funding

Supports open letter from 161 UK Further Education Colleges pressing Chancellor and Secretary of State to implement report recommendations

Leicester College is supporting a nationwide campaign to press the UK Government to implement the findings of the recent Augar Review. The report of an independent panel, led by Dr Philip Augar, made over 60 recommendations for the Government’s review of post-18 education and funding in England.

Leicester College has joined 160 other UK Further Education Colleges in signing an open letter to the Chancellor and Secretary of State, encouraging the implementation of the Augar Review recommendations, with the aim of improving opportunity and providing the skills required in a fast-changing economy.

Verity Hancock

Verity Hancock, Principal of Leicester College said: “The recently published independent review of post-18 education and funding has much more to offer than another round of debates about higher education tuition fees. It is the first review since the 1960s that considers higher and further education together, as parts of a single system.

“It concludes that in the national interest, there is pressing need for this system to be more balanced, and that the improved status, stability and sustainability of further education colleges should become a national policy priority. We have joined our fellow FE colleges nationwide in signing the letter to call upon our political leaders to implement its main findings.”

Dr Philip Augar, Chair of the Post-18 Education Review Panel, commented: “The present government’s review is the first since the Robbins report in 1963 to consider further and higher education together. It is an opportunity to consider the roles both parts of the system should play in meeting the country’s social and economic needs, how they fit together, how they should be funded and whether they are delivering value for students and taxpayers.

“Our work revealed that post-18 education in England is a story of both care and neglect, depending on whether students are amongst the 50 per cent of young people who participate in higher education or the rest. The panel believes that this disparity simply has to be addressed. Doing so is a matter of fairness and equity and is likely to bring considerable social and economic benefits to individuals, employers and the country at large. It is our core message.

“Our proposals are designed to build on the considerable achievements of our universities – one of the UK’s world class industries – with a particular focus on the economy’s needs and improving value for money for students and taxpayers. We also seek to rebuild further education, for too long the Cinderella sector, and see technical and vocational education as a means of addressing the country’s skills gap.

“We are firmly of the view that post-18 education should be a lifelong experience available to all, irrespective of age, situation or income. Our proposals are intended to create such a system.”

A copy of the text of the letter can be found below:

Dear Chancellor and Secretary of State

As college leaders, we are pleased that the Augar Review understands the importance of a more coherent tertiary system.  It makes many positive recommendations that will support the economy by upskilling and reskilling the adult population of England, through investment in more flexible higher, technical and professional education and training, answering calls from business and in direct response to the pending challenges of technological change and Brexit.

The report and the recommendations are based on sound analysis of the current state of further and higher education in England. It also sets out the compelling need for a fairer society which works for everyone, based on a strong economy in which businesses can be even more productive.

The report recognises the role that further education colleges must have in aligning the skills system with the needs of the economy, and in delivering high quality alternatives to traditional three-year residential bachelor’s degrees as well as enabling more adults to progress to intermediate skill levels.  It understands that employers and communities need more high quality technical and professional education and training, industry standard facilities, expert staff and the unique curriculum that colleges already provide.  It sees colleges as the key vehicle for the flexible, local delivery of national strategies, supporting industrial policy, productivity, skills development and genuine social equity.  It clearly acknowledges that all this requires real investment.

In many respects the Augar Review represents a wider emerging consensus across England. We are sure that you will agree with us and other key stakeholders that further education colleges have been neglected, and that there is now a growing appreciation of their unique role, value and potential. What we now need are decisions and commitments:  with your political leadership, support and resolve, colleges will be able to build on what they already do to reach more employers and more adults and make the differences our economy and society need.

Our concern is that, having waited so long, the key weakness of the Augar Review might prove to be its timing.  It has emerged at a moment when its insights and proposals might easily be lost.  That is why we are urging you to make the investment in upskilling and reskilling the whole of the adult population in England a priority in your spending decisions this autumn, and to implement the Augar recommendations promptly.

We stand ready, individually and collectively to deliver; eager to meet the challenges and excited at the prospect of helping to achieve a fairer society and successful future for our nation.

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