Colleges, Politics, Skills reform

No plans for new ‘elite’ technical colleges, skills minister suggests

Robert Halfon says PM refers to existing Institutes of Technology in education plans

Robert Halfon says PM refers to existing Institutes of Technology in education plans

There are no plans for brand new “elite” technical colleges, the new skills minister has suggested, claiming that prime minister Rishi Sunak is instead placing existing Institutes of Technology at the heart of his education plans.

Reports last month indicated that Sunak had been planning a new network of elite technical institutes to boost vocational training.

The Times reported that this would involve a new “network of ‘world-class’ technical institutions with links to industry and modelled on the Russell group of leading universities, offering T Levels and apprenticeships”.

Liz Truss had also unveiled plans for new “Voxbridge” colleges earlier this year during her brief stint as prime minister.

But addressing a House of Lords science and technology committee session this morning, new skills minister Robert Halfon claimed that Sunak was actually referring to the rollout of Institutes of Technology (IoT).

When asked to throw further light on the prime minister’s new “network of prestigious technical colleges,” Halfon told the committee: “We are increasing those. Those are the IoTs.

“So the IoTs are vocational colleges, predominantly focused on STEM and digital skills. We’re spending £290 million on them.

“There will be 21 overall, there are about 12 in place at the moment. Those IoTs are very much part of what you’re describing.”

Halfon, who had previously been a skills minister for a year in Theresa May’s government, explained that IoTs already exist in the further education sphere and have ties to colleges, universities and employers.

“So there isn’t going to be seven new institutions on a new framework?” Halfon was asked by committee.

He replied: “What I am aware of is the IoTs, that is what £290 million is being spent on, they’re still being rolled out and they are linked to FE colleges.”

IoTs work as collaborations between FE providers, universities and employers, and aim to deliver higher technical qualifications in areas like STEM and digital, as well as industries with skills shortages.

The government says that the first 12 IoTs comprise more than 40 FE providers, 60 employers and 18 universities, backed by £170 million of government funding to provide industry-standard facilities.

A fresh wave of nine further IoTs, backed by a further £120 million, was announced by the DfE in December last year.

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