Association of Colleges (AoC), the national voice for further education, sixth form, tertiary and specialist colleges in England, has called for a radical shake-up of England’s post-18 education offer to create a world-class system to support more people to learn, train and retrain throughout their lives.

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges said:

“We are calling on the government to be ambitious, to be bold, and to move beyond the traditional model if they are serious about building the HE infrastructure necessary for economic and social prosperity for the next decade and well beyond.

Traditional three-year Bachelors’ degrees, delivered in universities and colleges have many strengths but they are not the only option, and in many cases are not the best option. We need system reform that increases opportunities for all with incentives to support students to have a viable option for them to learn more flexibly, locally and focused on the labour market. That will reduce the financial burden on students and the government whilst meeting employers needs for more skilled people.

Our proposal, with colleges at the heart of it, will ensure a post-18 offer that is local, flexible and available at all stages of life, and offers the country the very best chance to thrive once we leave the European Union.”

AoC’s latest report ‘2030 and beyond: an upgraded post-18 education system’ proposes a major re-design of the country’s higher technical education offer to provide a credible alternative route to a BA/BSc degree. It includes:

  • New national qualifications developed locally to meet employer and labour market needs and built on those already working well
  • Government reform to grant, fee and loan rules to incentivise and support new one and two-year courses at Levels 4 and 5
  • The same fee cap and loan/maintenance arrangements to be made available for students of all ages who take up the new national qualifications- part time or full time
  • Access to financial support for living costs, travel and childcare.

Shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden commented on the review paper, saying how it  “further highlights the urgent need for post-18 reform and contains a series of practical proposals to assist students with much-needed support including for travel and maintenance grants – issues we’ve consistently challenged Government over but they have consistently ignored.”