Whilst the education system within the UK is generally quite good, across the country there needs to be a more consistent approach to higher and further education courses. Allowing students to access a course that is right for them; rather than having to choose the best of a ‘bad bunch’.
Over two decades ago, the old Prime Minister Tony Blair set a goal for 50% of young people to participate in Higher Education. This was finally reached a year ago, but the current government has completely dropped the target, focusing their attention on Further Education in order to ‘level up’ the country. Let’s have a look at the balance of the two across the country.
It is great news to hear that there has been a substantial increase in the number of people participating in Higher Education in recent years. However, this spread has not been even throughout the UK. The strongest area, as expected, was London. London saw a 4.3% rise in uptake bringing them to a total of 63.4%. Whilst the lower performing region in the UK did grow by 2.9%, the overall percentage was much lower at 23.4% qualified to Level 4 and above.
It is clear that there is a real North-South divide when it comes to Higher Education. Particularly with graduates outside of London being less likely to be working in graduate roles. Unfortunately, there is still a strong negative correlation between levels of deprivation and the share of the local population with a Higher Education qualification.
Further Education has always been put on the backburner when it comes to education. There has been a severe lack of funding and general value for decades. Just to give you some figures, in 2018/2019, per-student funding was 37% lower in Further Education than Higher Education. Which is a staggering difference! Again, there is a geographical divide, with Further Education being the more favoured route outside of London & the South East. In the North East, 50% of pupils progressed into apprenticeships at a FE college after Key Stage 4. This is compared to 39% in the South East and 26% in London, who are more likely to move onto Higher Education.
A More Balanced Approach
There has been a substantial rise in the promotion of Higher Education; but this has come at a cost to Further Education. In order to address this issue, there needs to be a rebalance nationwide to help drive numbers up on both sides of the spectrum. This is where we need the introduction of a joined-up system where students have access to courses that are right for them.
It is also important to ensure the best Further Education opportunities are not solely given to those who are already advantaged, which is usually the case. The two sectors should be working in tandem, rather than fighting against each other.
High-Quality Education Is The Key
The main thing for learners is that the government continues to provide high-quality education that gives learners an equal opportunity when it comes to employment. Whether that is through Further Education, Higher Education, or a blend of the two. The same opportunities should be available, regardless of the path the learner has taken. Young people need to be given clear direction when they leave the post-16 education system; rather than being forced into Higher Education.
Watch this space to find out more about bridging the gap between Further and Higher Education! If you would like any information on any of the Assessor courses that we provide, please feel free to give our team a call on 01205 805 155.