Qualifications cull comes under FAB fire

A cull of more than 1,800 adult qualifications that had little or no uptake has come under fire from Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) chief executive Jill Lanning.
The Skills Funding Agency has axed funding for a host of awards, from entry level to level four, as part of its New Streamlined Funding System for Adult Skills from the start of last month

Among the 1,884 qualifications hit for no uptake were City & Guilds’ level one award in creative techniques in jewellery — personalised key fob and the Royal Society for Public Health’s level two award in health promotion.

Many cases of funding are being withdrawn from only one or two of the awarding bodies offering each of the qualifications under scrutiny.

However, a further 197 qualifications that had faced the chop were saved.

They included the Mineral Products Qualifications Council’s level four diploma in supervision of underground coal, shale or fireclay mining operations and City & Guilds’ level three diploma for professional dog stylists.

Nevertheless, Mrs Lanning remained critical of the cull.

“We recognise the agency may need to focus and prioritise the limited public funding available for adult learning, but we do not believe that the approach used to remove funding from individual qualifications with low and no enrolments is an effective way to do this,” she said.

“Many cases of funding are being withdrawn from only one or two of the awarding bodies offering each of the qualifications under scrutiny.

“We are naturally concerned about the impact of this approach on our members, including where funding was removed from one of a suite of linked qualifications offered by an awarding organisation.”

In February FE Week reported how more than 2,400 qualifications could disappear, but in July Skills Minister Matthew Hancock said that 1,884 qualifications would be scrapped following a “thorough” review.

An agency spokesperson told FE Week: “We asked awarding organisations, colleges and training providers to submit evidence for any qualifications they believed should be retained.

“Where we have removed public funding for qualifications with no or low enrolments, we have ensured no gaps in provision for employers and learners.”
She added that the agency would review funding decisions if there was evidence of demand.

And, thanks to a Freedom of Information request to the agency, FE week can reveal that 70 per cent of the qualifications cut were axed because they had no uptake in the 22 months from August 2011, while the remainder were culled for little demand.

Meanwhile, City & Guilds won amnesty for 74 of its qualifications, but lost 345. Its director of policy, research and regulation, Judith Norrington, said: “It’s understandable that the government is keen to focus funding on the qualifications that people are taking.

“Clearly, there is a need to simplify the complex framework system wherever possible — in fact the Qualifications and Credit Framework [QCF] system itself led to awarding bodies producing so many qualifications.

“Our main concern is whether the needs of employers and learners have driven the changes to funding. It’s particularly vital that employers are involved to ensure the funding is directed to the right areas and meets their needs.”

Meanwhile, OCR saw two of its qualifications saved, including its level two certificate in preparing to work in creative media. It lost 192.

A spokesperson for the awarding body said: “The fact that there are so many unused qualifications is a hangover from an old regime and illustrates perfectly the need to get rid of the QCF.

“What is really important is that we all develop new qualifications for new and emerging needs. It is not about the actual number of qualifications, but the right kind of qualifications.”