Money for new institutes of technology could be better spent promoting existing university courses, according to a leading higher education think tank.
The government announced £170M of funding for new institutes of technology to deliver higher level STEM education as part of its modern industrial strategy.
The new institutes were described as “a radical overhaul of technical education” aiming to provide a credible alternative to universities. The announcement is part of a wider proposal in the industrial strategy to tackle shortages in STEM subjects.
“Our modern industrial strategy is a critical part of our plan for post-Brexit Britain. Our action will help ensure young people develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future,” said prime minister Theresa May.
“That means boosting technical education and ensuring we extend the same opportunity and respect we give university graduates to those people who pursue technical routes.”
However higher education think tank MillionPlus questioned the need for the new technical institutions, citing the range of existing university courses.
“Universities and colleges are already working with employers, offer high quality courses in civil engineering and construction at both degree and HND level,” said MillionPlus chief executive Pam Tatlow.
“Questions have to be asked therefore as to whether the £170M for new institutes of technology might be better spent in promoting these courses, and the collaboration that’s required between universities, colleges and employers that makes them a success.”
The Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) also stressed that industry links are vital to ensuring the success of proposed institutes of technology, adding that the institutes could contribute to the training mix needed in the sector.
“It is essential that the pool of skills available in the future matches that needed to deliver the pipeline of investment in infrastructure,” said CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner.
“We anticipate that these skills needs will change with the advent of new technologies and processes, so we need a flexible system that provides the correct training for all new entrants to the sector. Institutes of technology offer a potential route to deliver these skills as part of a mixed market for learning that will also include existing routes such as university courses.”
The government’s modern industrial strategy was announced yesterday (23 January). The green paper included plans for new sector deals, with particular benefits for the nuclear industry.
It identified the need to help business growth by investing in STEM skills and creating a respected higher education alternative for the half of young people who do not go to university.