Magazine article Times Higher Education

Traineeship Levy 'May Add to Part-Time Degree Crisis'

Magazine article Times Higher Education

Traineeship Levy 'May Add to Part-Time Degree Crisis'

Article excerpt

Hepi report predicts problems if fee not extended to employer-sponsored study. John Morgan writes

The £3 billion-a-year apprenticeship levy on larger firms should be extended to cover employer-sponsored degrees, or universities risk losing students as companies respond to the levy by cutting degree spending, according to the author of a Higher Education Policy Institute report.

The report, published on 21 April and written by Dave Phoenix, vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, says that employer-sponsored degrees offer "excellent value for money to taxpayers, who pay much less of the cost [than for traditional degrees], and students, who can emerge with no debt".

Employer-sponsored degrees "should become more central to the future provision of higher education", given "positive implications for both higher education funding and for universities meeting the more explicit needs of industry, not to mention HM Treasury", as well as in flexible technical education for individuals, it says.

Higher and degree apprenticeships "receive subsidies denied to employer-sponsored degrees" and the new apprenticeship levy should be extended to these courses, it recommends.

The levy comes into effect in April 2017 at a rate of 0.5 per cent of an employer's pay bill and will apply to firms with salary costs above £3 million, raising an estimated £3 billion a year by 2019-20 to fund new apprenticeships.

'Better for taxpayer and students'

The Hepi report describes employer-sponsored degrees as the original "earn while you learn" courses, where employees undertake study on a part-time basis (usually one day a week). It says that there are currently 235,000 such students - equating to 10 per cent of all students at UK universities. Professor Phoenix, who is chair of Million+, told Times Higher Education there was a risk that employers could cut back on degree spending in light of the extra money they will be required to allocate to the levy.

This would mean "we end up not with an increase [of numbers of employees in education], but simply a move of activity into a differently named qualification without any real benefit for the individual, the employer, at the heart of it", he said. …

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