A key outcome of these reports has been to provide greater emphasis on Level 4 and 5 HTE programmes, with an ambition to improve the quality and visibility of this provision and drive adoption.
As the UK’s largest awarding body of Level 4 and 5 HTE, Pearson have long invested in this space in the form of the Higher National Certificates (HNC) at Level 4, and Higher National Diplomas (HND) at Level 5 - otherwise known as the Higher Nationals.
The value of Higher Nationals for the renewed national focus on HTE lies in its robust design; the programme specifications, units and learning outcomes are all created in consultation and collaboration with industry and academia. A recent example of this is the Higher Nationals in Cloud Computing developed in partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), which will allow students and tutors access to the AWS learning platform, and deliver the learning, skills and credentials for careers in cloud computing.
Both employers and education providers alike, work directly with Pearson to create custom-designed Higher National programmes, with the Higher Nationals in Digital Technologies being a recent collaboration.
Universities and HTE
Pearson has a significant history in designing vocational HE programmes, with over 480 institutions worldwide currently delivering BTEC Higher National qualifications, including Further Education Colleges and Universities, through both public and private education providers. The Higher National curriculum in around 40 subject areas provides students with key higher vocational and technical skills, offering progress to employment directly, and/or onto further study.
Pearson also licenses the Higher National trademark and intellectual property to Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) with degree awarding powers, so they can deliver and award Higher Nationals themselves. There are currently 30 Universities in England and Wales that deliver Licensed Higher Nationals, offering their students the opportunity to gain a globally recognised HTE qualification.
Licensed Higher Nationals can contribute to widening participation, improving student achievement and enhancing local education and employer partnerships. Higher Nationals have the benefit of allowing students to gain a recognised award at level 4, the Higher National Certificate, and at level 5 the Higher National Diploma, offering a ladder of learning and qualification attainment. In addition, the Higher National brand is well recognised and valued by employers, supporting students’ progression ambitions.
The introduction of Higher Technical Qualifications may provide an opportunity for HEIs to design their HTE provision, and in Pearson they can find a partner with established expertise in designing industry-recognised HTE programmes. The Licensed Higher National model offers HEIs the intellectual property to deliver and award ready-made employer-led higher technical qualifications
that are mapped to occupational KSBs, and provide the chance for students to achieve work-focused learning outcomes.
As such, the focus on HTE can allow HEIs to diversify their curriculum offer and contribute to the wider national concern for addressing skills shortages. Being alert to the needs of the national and global economy, HTE can bring collaborative relations between HEIs and industry to the forefront in order to improve employability routes for Level 4 and 5 students.
HTE can also enhance intra-institutional collaboration, with Institute of Technoology (IOT) partnerships already taking shape to deliver HTQs. Localised collaboration between HEIs, Further Education Colleges and employers can help to raise the profile and viability of HTE as an option for students, and provide flexible learning opportunities for those who want to re-skill.
Needs of the Future
With government backing, a new energy around HTE can be created to address future economic and social needs, and higher education providers can play an important role in driving the change in the national conversation around the value of HTE. Indeed, recent research by the Social Market Foundation reveals that public preferences are already shifting towards HTE, with 48% of parents preferring their children to gain a vocational qualification compared to 37% wanting their children to go University.
However, this also exemplifies the dichotomy of thinking around HTE; that somehow vocational education is, or should be, separate from higher education and University. HTQs may offer the chance to reform that notion, and HEIs should be encouraged to see delivering Level 4 and 5 HTE as a necessary and important part of their provision.