More than a fifth of wave two T Level providers deferred or cancelled courses because they could not recruit enough students.
Of the 62 colleges, schools and private providers due to begin delivery of the flagship courses from September 2021, 14 deferred or cancelled a route that they intended to deliver.
A government evaluation report of the T Level Professional Development programme, delivered by the Education and Training Foundation, revealed the finding today.
The research stated that deferrals or cancellations were mostly due to challenges with learner recruitment as students preferred other courses such as BTECs, as well staffing issues, a general lack of awareness, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Students with lower attainment than eligibility criteria, the inability to adequately resource provision, late or occasionally inadequate preparation material from some awarding bodies, too few employer placements and insufficient employer engagement were all also cited as issues.
The majority of the 62 providers interviewed for the research stated that low learner demand was the primary reason for cancelling or deferring T Level delivery.
There were multiple courses that received fewer than five applications, and in one case a science course received no applicants.
The report noted that a “a common, spontaneous view emerged from the interviews” that the T Level Transition Programme will not achieve its primary objective of providing a flow of learners onto T Level courses.
FE Week revealed last May that just one in seven of the first students who studied the T Level Transition Programme chose to progress on to a full T Level.
The research found that new courses were seen as risky, progression pathways were unclear, and there was uncertainty over the willingness of universities to accept T Levels.
The report also noted that recruiting sufficient staff with the right subject knowledge and good pedagogic practice “is a challenge for the whole FE sector, and this was no different for T Level providers”.
Most providers managed this by allocating T Level delivery to their more experienced and skilled staff. However in two instances, an inability to recruit staff with the required specialist knowledge meant that courses could not be delivered.
The report’s authors said: “Continuing to raise the profile of T Levels amongst learners, parents and schools is evidently key to create sufficient demand from learners for courses to be viable.”
The report did not investigate how many providers in wave three of the T Level rollout deferred on cancelled courses, but it does say that the fieldwork “suggested that learner recruitment had been more buoyant for September 2022”.