The Department for Education (DfE) today published a Frontier Economics report looking at the Further Education (FE) qualifications market. The analysis identified a number of market weaknesses and carried out an initial assessment of different reform options, their associated risks and potential mitigating actions.
Vocational qualifications provide practical skills that are directly aligned to employment in one or more occupations, as well as preparing learners to re-enter academic education. They play a critical role in building a skilled and productive workforce and are currently developed and supplied by Awarding Organisations (AOs). Training providers, such as FE Colleges, Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and independent training providers, buy the right to deliver vocational qualifications from AOs.
Previous studies have found structural issues in the vocational qualifications market and questioned whether the current competitive model is delivering the best possible outcomes for all market participants. Concerns have been raised that some parts of the publicly-funded vocational qualifications market are not always delivering high quality qualifications. In considering options to reform the vocational qualifications market, the DfE commissioned this report from Frontier to inform its thinking in this important area.
Frontier’s detailed market analysis used a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods to assess the quality of outcomes in the vocational qualification market. The market weaknesses included (but were not limited to):
- Insufficient regulation of the content of qualifications
- High barriers to training providers switching between AOs
- In some cases, insufficient head-to-head competition between AOs
The study also looked at a small number of illustrative policy reform scenarios to understand the risks and benefits associated with different options. These reflected key work ongoing at the time of the study, such as the Independent Panel on Technical Education chaired by Lord Sainsbury.
Frontier regularly advises clients in the public sector on issues related to education and competition.
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