New centre prompts hope of vocational catch-up

New centre prompts hope of vocational catch-up

Professor Alison Wolf has told of her hopes that a new national vocational education centre to influence policy and develop best practice will address the country’s “woeful” FE research record.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is giving £3m for three years — with an option to extend a further two years with more funding — for a centre to explore the role of vocational education.

It has invited bids to run the new research centre, and already counts Professor Wolf as board leader. The Kings College London academic, whose government-commissioned review of vocational education for 14 to 19-year-olds was published in early 2011, told FE Week: “I am absolutely delighted that the government is funding this new research centre. We are woefully short of good, up-to-date research in this area and the new centre should be a major asset to future policy.”

She will be joined on the board and research bid assessment panel by City and Islington College principal Frank McLoughlin, whose Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning (CAVTL) last year issued a report calling for a national centre of excellence to be established.

Director of spatial economics research at the London School of Economics Henry Overmann and Nuffield Foundation education director Josh Hillman make up the rest of the board and panel, which is to be advised by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF). An ETF spokesperson said: “It’s an exciting prospect and an important development to help us understand more fully how to realise the vision of a vocational education and training [VET] system with employers at the heart. We are looking forward to working with the new research centre on experimentation and evaluation, building on our work on implementing the CAVTL report.”

The assessment panel will be boosted by Frank Bowley, deputy director for Skills Policy Analysis at BIS, along with representatives from the Economics and Social Research Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The BIS statement calling for bids to run the centre said there would be no restrictions on where the college could be based or the number of organisations that could enter together.