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Level 4 and 5 qualifications vital to fill national skills gap, says LSBU's Vice-Chancellor

Professor Phoenix calls on universities to champion Level 4 and 5 qualifications to fill the UK skills gap in a new report published by Higher Education Policy Institute
23 August 2018

‘Filling in the biggest skills gap: Increasing learning at Levels 4 and 5’, a new report, authored by Professor David Phoenix, Vice-Chancellor of London South Bank University (LSBU) was published today by The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

In the report, Professor Phoenix calls on universities to champion Level 4 and 5 qualifications, which include well-known brands like HNCs, HNDs and Foundation Degrees.

These qualifications provide an important ladder for employees looking to increase their skillset and a crucial pathway for mature and widening participation learners who are either not interested in, or unable to, undertake a full Bachelor’s degree.

The report has been written in response to the fact that over the past decade the number of learners taking these qualifications has collapsed.

In this study, Professor Phoenix aims to place Level 4 and 5 qualifications in their educational context; highlighting the key issues driving the shortfall in the numbers of learners educated to this  level, while making recommendations as to how these numbers could be increased.

The report recommends:

  • Providing free access to Level 2 and 3 qualifications through FE colleges for all learners, regardless of age, in order to improve the pipeline of potential learners for Levels 4 and 5.
  • Encouraging higher education institutions to offer Level 4 and 5 awards (especially Foundation Degrees, CertHEs and DipHEs) as positive targets rather than early exit awards from Level 6 qualifications to raise their esteem.
  • Introducing a ‘Step-on, Step-off’ student loans system, allowing students to take out loans to support their learning level by level.

Professor Phoenix, said: “Too often, these qualifications are seen as exit awards for those that fail to complete their degree. Universities should be promoting Level 4 and 5 qualifications as reputable awards in their own right.

“Weaknesses in secondary education have resulted in a poor supply of learners able to progress to these levels and the funding system discourages universities from offering them.

“There is a common misconception that school leavers must jump straight to degree level if they are to continue learning. Highlighting and improving other options would make progression more achievable for many learners. We need a shift in policy to make that happen.”

Read the full report.