Pearson vying to keep a third of its BTEC level 3 courses under threat

The deadline for awarding bodies to appeal is July 8

The deadline for awarding bodies to appeal is July 8

Awarding giant Pearson is appealing to keep one-third of its BTEC courses under threat of being axed by the government as part of plans to reform level 3 qualifications. 

In May, the Department for Education published a draft list of 38 BTECs that are planned to be culled. These are among 160 level 3 qualifications the DfE is looking to defund from 2024 as they “overlap” with the government’s flagship T Levels. 

The deadline for awarding bodies to appeal is today, July 8. 

Pearson had the greatest number on the list – 41 – and has confirmed it is appealing the closure of 14. 

A spokesperson told FE Week that over half of their qualifications on the defunding list are already being withdrawn “as part of our usual cycle of updating and renewing our products, or are designed primarily for apprenticeships learners, which means they will not be affected by this process”. 

Pearson said the 14 it is appealing are “valued by 16-to-19 learners, colleges, universities and employers, and are not replaced by T Levels”. The courses being appealed are mostly linked to mechanical engineering.  

Pearson confirmed it is also developing content and assessments for five of the new T Level qualifications. It includes two of the first three courses – digital production, design and development; and design, surveying and planning for construction. 

This September it will deliver T Levels in finance and accounting, with the legal services T Level to be added in September 2023. 

FE Week approached all awarding bodies with four or more courses on the under-threat list. City & Guilds, which has 36, Training Qualifications UK (five) and Gateway Qualifications Ltd (four) did not wish to comment on which courses they are appealing. 

NCFE is appealing five of the 19 it has on the list, largely health and social care courses. A spokesperson said the awarding body “welcomes” the DfE reforms but added: “We believe these specific qualifications should continue to be funded as they serve progression to job roles not yet covered by T Levels, specifically in the social care sector.” 

OCR said it would not comment on any specifics around the seven it has on the list, but a spokesperson said: “We will be appealing a limited number of qualifications where we believe there are clear grounds for appeal.” 

NOCN said it is likely to appeal the level 3 diploma in adult care of the four qualifications it has on the defunding list, while iCan Qualifications confirmed it would not be appealing any of its five on the list. 

Among some of the popular courses are Pearson’s national foundation diploma in engineering, which had 3,500 completers in 2021, with 3,299 on the course this year, while 2,200 finished its national extended diploma in engineering last year, with just over 3,000 on the course this year. 

The health and social care diploma BTEC had around 3,000 youngsters finishing the course last year. 

For NCFE, four of its five are among the top 20 most popular courses on the defunding list, according to the Association of Colleges’ defunding position paper published last week. Learners on those four health and social care courses this year total 11,705. 

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “A number of popular, established and well-respected qualifications feature on this list. That should come as little surprise, given the simplistic definition of ‘overlap’ adopted by the government and the lack of transparency in the review process.  

“If the appeals regime concludes that qualifications like the diploma in health and social care, or the suite of BTEC engineering qualifications, are no longer required, that will further damage the credibility of the government’s approach to reviewing level 3 qualifications. This is certain to be raised at the #ProtectStudentChoice debate that takes place in parliament on July 18.”    

Cath Sezen, AoC senior policy manager, said: “We are concerned around the defunding of these engineering qualifications as the new engineering T Levels are only being introduced this September.” 

Sezen said some who were working up the levels would not have a one-year level 3 option in a couple of years’ time, and a two-year T Level may not be appropriate. She added that sufficient placement opportunities must be available for learners in all parts of the country. 

She added: “There needs to be greater investment in the transition year – currently funded in line with other study programmes – to prepare students for T Levels and, of course, English and maths, which are a hurdle to starting a T Level.” 

Pearson’s 14 appeals, BTECs level 3 

National Diploma in Manufacturing Engineering 

National Extended Diploma in Manufacturing Engineering  

National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering  

Foundation Award in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (Development Technical Knowledge)  

Award in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (Development Technical Knowledge)  

Certificate in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (Development Technical Knowledge)  

Diploma in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (Development Technical Knowledge)  

Extended Diploma in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering (Development Technical Knowledge)  

National Foundation Diploma in Engineering National Diploma in Engineering  

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Engineering  

National Extended Diploma in Mechanical Engineering 

National Extended Certificate in Construction and the Built Environment 

National Diploma in Health and Social Care 


NCFE’s five appeals, level 3 

Certificate in Health and Social Care 

Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care 

Technical Level 3 Certificate in Health and Social Care 

Technical Level 3 Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care 

Diploma in Adult Care 


NOCN’s appeal 

Level 3 Diploma in Adult Care 

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