Colleges are being sought to partner with The Open University to plug higher technical education cold spots across England.
Under the scheme announced today, The Open University will work with colleges that do not currently offer higher technical education, or want to expand the range of courses they offer.
The government has backed the initiative with £10 million – cash which will be used to “increase the capability” of around 10 to 12 colleges to provide those higher education courses and accredit them.
“For too long, people have had to look beyond their hometown for higher education courses,” said minister for higher and further education, Michelle Donelan.
“The government is backing The Open University with the funding and support to partner up with local colleges to offer high-quality higher education and training, targeting cold spots across the country, so everyone can upskill wherever they live.”
The DfE said new courses created through the scheme will be shorter than a traditional three-year degree, offering a mix of blended, face-to-face and on-line learning.
The scheme aims to help more people to secure high skill, high wage jobs to help tackle the cost of living.
It comes ahead of the introduction of the lifelong loan entitlement in 2025, which will give adults access to flexible student finance for different courses throughout their lifetime.
“The OU has strong name recognition nationally, and colleges have the reach and the local reputation to engage adults from every community,” said David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges.
“Working with the OU they will be able to offer a wider range of courses to the people that need them most. Together, these partnerships will help more people get the skills they need to succeed in the labour market.”
Unit for Future Skills
The announcement comes as the government launches its new Unit for Future Skills – which will provide “high-quality and accessible data” on skills and jobs from across government.
As a first step, new data is set to be published today that shows the jobs, sectors and regions people work in after gaining a qualification.
The DfE said this is the first time the government has brought together data on higher education and further education, making it “easier for people to see where their training can take them – for example, showing the routes young people take through high-quality technical education to get good jobs where they live”.
More data is expected to be published in the autumn.
Colleges set to benefit from funding
The government said that colleges and universities are also set to benefit from up to £32 million of additional funding as part of the Higher Technical Education Skills Injection Fund.
This money will be used to invest in equipment and facilities that will support technical studies, and boost training opportunities with businesses in key areas such as digital, construction and health care.
The funding follows an £18 million investment last year, which supported 100 further and higher education providers to invest in new equipment, such as virtual reality goggles and air quality testing equipment.