Quality-marking level 4 and 5 qualifications, to help boost the overlooked programmes, has become the latest addition to the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s expanded remit.
Education secretary Damian Hinds has announced a consultation on whether qualifications at those two levels, which are offered at universities, colleges and national colleges, should be renamed Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs).
The change would affect a variety of existing qualifications, including higher apprenticeships, foundation degrees and higher national diplomas.
It is intended HTQs will be in place by the time the first cohort of T-level students finish that level 3 qualification in 2022.
The IfATE will be approving new and existing HTQs that “deliver the knowledge, skills, and behaviours set out in employer-led occupational standards”, and awarding them a quality mark.
Awarding bodies will submit HTQs to IfATE’s employer-led route panels, which already oversee the approval of standards and T-levels, for approval.
The submissions will be managed through a phased application process, much like was done with T-levels, and it will be possible for more than one qualification to be approved against an occupational standard.
The Department for Education is considering making it so approved Higher Technical Qualifications are only available with access to student finance at “high-quality further and higher education providers”.
A DfE spokesperson said these high-quality providers will have to have “suitably qualified and experienced teachers with current, relevant occupational and industry experience and expertise, as well as high-quality pedagogical skills”.
Leaders must also have the capacity and ability to ensure provision is sustainable and retains a clear focus on quality.
There must also be strong links with employer networks so they value what is being delivered; and learning environments with up-to-date facilities.
The DfE is also considering adopting a proposal from the Augar Review, that approved qualifications should be entitled to the same tuition fee support and teaching grant, and equivalent maintenance support, as level 6 qualifications.
The IfATE itself will be able to commission the creation of a qualification where there is a need for a HTQ to recognise a need for one to meet specific skills at levels 4 and 5, but no qualification has been put forward.
Despite this wide-ranging role for IfATE, on top of its responsibility for apprenticeship standards and the classroom-based element of T-levels, HTQs will still be regulated by Ofqual to “help ensure consistent standards in terms of complexity and challenge.”
These proposals come after Hinds announced last December the government would build a “new generation” of higher technical qualifications, to end the snobbery over technical education.
A spokesperson said: “The Institute will continue to work closely with the department as this policy proposal develops.”
The consultation has opened today, and will close on 29 September.