The OECD study ‘Skills Beyond the Skills System’ (2013) remarked on the relative lack of Level 4 and 5 sub-degree provision within England and the lack of specialist applied universities or similar.
Others have opined that there is a ‘polytechnic sized hole’ in our education system. This imbalance is reflected in the government’s Skills Plan (2015) and the Industrial Strategy launched last month which also remark upon skills gaps at the higher technical level.
The Skills Plan and the Industrial Strategy draw heavily upon the recommendations of a panel led by Lord David Sainsbury. The Panel recommended a distinctive technical education route from level 2 (GCSE equivalent) through to degree level, but with a particular emphasis upon levels 3, 4 and 5 which are judged to be key in filling the perceived technician gap.
What are the prospects for developing such a distinctive route amounting to what could be termed an English ‘dual-system’? Professor Doel will argue that progress in this direction has, in the past, been hampered by what he calls the ‘gravitational pull of the academic’ which is particularly strong in England.
Resisting this gravitational force will require a more thought through definition and understanding of what makes higher technical education different from academic higher education, with possible consequences for the institutional landscape, accreditation, funding and teaching methodology.
Listen to an audio recording of the seminar: