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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – support and guidance

QAA welcomes Government commitment to introduce flexible, lifelong learning

Date: September 29 - 2020

QAA welcomes today’s announcement by the Prime Minister that the Government is committed to making further and higher education in England more flexible to facilitate lifelong learning. The plans reflect QAA’s work in developing proposals for a more granular set of educational opportunities for post-18 learning.

On behalf of our members, QAA has recently established a working group of experts from across the higher education sector. Chaired by Professor Sue Rigby, Vice-Chancellor of Bath Spa University, it will consider reform of the Higher Education Credit Framework for England. We have been in discussion with the Department for Education about the group’s work, which complements the Government’s plans to reform the training and skills system.

In a blog published today, Professor Rigby sets out her vision for partnership across the further and higher education sectors, with autonomous universities given the flexibility to design and deliver high quality courses, working with colleges who have developed close links to local economies and communities. This would provide choice alongside the traditional degree system based around a single exit point and one qualification, adding a flexible entity comprising of qualifications on multiple levels, allowing students to easily transfer between study and the workplace over time. This model is entirely compatible with today’s proposals and we look forward to working with the Government and partners across higher and further education sectors in developing a system designed to meet the needs of students and employers in a post-COVID economy.

QAA also welcomes the Government’s plans to allow adults without an A-level or equivalent qualification to be offered a free, fully-funded college course. As the regulator of the Access to HE Diploma for almost 25 years, each year we have seen over 20,000 students without traditional qualifications enter higher education through the Diploma. As highlighted in our recent blog, many Access students are moving into careers in healthcare and other critical services. With 90% of Access graduates in employment or further study six months after graduation, the Diploma has proved a hugely successful foundation for students. We hope to work with the Government and share our experiences, as new pathways into higher education are developed.

Responding to the announcement, QAA’s Chief Executive Douglas Blackstock said, “the higher and further education sectors are ideally placed to support the UK’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s announcements are an important step in creating greater flexibility, allowing students to move in and out of education, with the potential to enhance both their educational experience and employment prospects. We welcome these proposals and look forward to working with the Government as it develops the policy though the forthcoming further education White Paper”.

Read Professor Rigby's blog: A Local, Resilient and Agile Mechanism to Deliver more Flexible Education