Around £11 million of cash to bolster higher technical education provision has been withheld in the Department for Education’s coffers, officials have admitted.
In March the DfE announced that 63 providers had won a slice of the £32 million higher technical education skills injection fund, designed to help providers invest in equipment, resources and training for delivering the qualifications.
But in an update this week, the DfE said that just £21 million through the skills injection fund is supporting around 85 providers this financial year, focusing on levelling up areas.
The DfE said that the number of organisations to receive funding was different as some had applied as a consortium, but confirmed there was an £11 million underspend which will remain in the DfE’s central pot.
The DfE said that while the announcement was made in the 2022/23 financial year, the payments are actually made in the 2023/24 financial year.
Last summer, the DfE said that £22 million of the £32 million pot will be used for capital costs, such as perpetual software licenses, specialist equipment and refurbishing existing facilities, but could not be used on new build facilities.
The remaining £10 million of the fund was to be allocated for resources such as upskilling staff, learner recruitment events or curriculum planning.
It is not yet clear how much of the £11 million underspend comes from the capital allocation and how much is from the resource side.
DfE guidance last year said that the cash is to support providers to deliver or grow level 4 and 5 technical qualifications recognised by Ofqual or the Office for Students.
The fund can be used for providers in already-approved level 4 and 5 qualifications, as well as newly approved routes in digital, construction and heath and science being introduced for September this year or January 2024.
Applications were also eligible for courses launching in September 2024 or January 2025, including in business and administration, education and childcare, engineering and manufacturing, and legal, finance and accounting.
In its updated guidance this week, the DfE said the £21 million is part of a wider package to support providers grow level 4 and 5 provision, which also includes £10 million to help providers upscale provision in under-served areas, £14 million split across 100 providers in the growth fund in 2021/22 and £8 million in strategic priorities grant funding.