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Reforming BTECs: Applied General qualifications as a route to higher education

  • 23 February 2017
  • By Scott Kelly
  • HEPI number 94

The dramatic rise in the number of university students holding BTECs raises important questions about the purpose of the qualification and whether it should be treated by policymakers as part of an academic or vocational pathway.

Scott Kelly discusses these issues and makes a number of recommendations for policymakers and universities.

About the author: 

Dr Scott Kelly lectures in British Politics at New York University in London and has worked for many years as a policy adviser to the Rt Hon. John Hayes MP, who was Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (2010-12). He previously worked for the Learning and Skills Network.

Dr Kelly is the author of The Myth of Mr Butskell: The Politics of British Economic Policy 1950–55 (Ashgate, 2002) and various academic articles and policy papers, including Raising productivity by improving higher technical education: Tackling the Level 4 and Level 5 conundrum (HEPI, 2015).

1 comment

  1. Lindsey Johnson says:

    What a shame that the reviewer focussed on the Extended Diploma (BTEC National) of only ONE Awarding Organisation (Pearson Edexcel). Plenty of other fantastic Level 3 Extended Diplomas that are definitely giving students a fabulous base from which to progress to university – UAL, City & Guilds, OCR?

    Little acknowledgment to the fact that actual UCAS points awarded for the “BTEC” have less variability (due to their combined nature), than a students studying 3 separate A levels. No recognition that schools are now offering BTECs against their traditional A level subjects in less technical subjects (e.g. Sports Science, Health Science, Business Admin) – which has skewed the overall Value Added.

    That growth in BTECs is demand-led is a bizarre statement. No recognition that with Raising Participation Age (RPA) young people who would have previously left school and gone straight into work, now find themselves in education – and the only education available to them is Further Education, rather than school sixth form. What was supposed to happen to these students?

    Finally, there it is folly to pigeon-hole BTECs into either an AGQ or Technical route. Employers are endorsing them – meaning they are considered technical qualifications. For me, there is nothing wrong with keeping options for progression open for young people progressing at Key Stage 4. Some go into apprenticeships, directly into employment and some go to university. BTEC students have technical skills and work experience that A level students don’t have. Not all degrees are academic, and actually, new universities have made the most of vocational degrees, such as Foundation Degrees and HNDs.

    Thanks for producing such a thought-provoking & controversial paper.

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