The UK government has responded to the unanimous criticism of the parliamentary Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee of its plans to withdraw funding for students in higher education taking courses at a level equivalent to or lower than the qualifications they hold already. These are known in the trade as “ELQs”. This would affect, among others, workers training for new careers after being made redundant. See here, here and here for background.
Having read the government’s response I am absolutely flabbergasted. I never expected the government to throw up it hands and admit that it made a terrible mistake, but I did hope for some kind of conciliatory move. What we have, however, amounts to a single digit salute to education professionals and parliament.
It is also devoid of internal consistency. What, for example, is all this stuff about re-skilling through “foundation degrees and employer co-funded provision”? Employers have already demanded that universities tailor bachelors degree courses in general for industry’s vocational needs. To me this indicates that industry is not prepared to “co-fund” anything beyond token amounts. If there is anything dustier than Gordon Brown’s wallet, it is those of the members of the Confederation of British Industry and other representatives of UK employers.
The government is also haughtily dismissive of the claim of educationalists and the select committee that the withdrawal of funding for students taking ELQs is contrary to the spirit and recommendations of the Leitch Review of Skills. How the government has the nerve to say this I do not know. In recommending that there be a formal review of the effect of withdrawal of ELQ funding (i.e., well after the event), the government is side-tracking the issue, and no doubt that is where it will remain.
The rest of the government’s response is in a similar vein. Read it and weep.
See also Peter Ryley‘s reaction.