Labour Party commits to review the diversity of options at Level 3, including BTECs

London Higher has responded to the letter from Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Secretary of State for Education to the Protect Student Choice campaign, that we are supporting. Our response:

The Labour Party has agreed to make a commitment to review the defunding process of Applied General Qualifications (AGCs) including BTECs, with plans by the current government to defund the qualifications by 2024. The idea that T-levels could soon replace BTECs feels unrealistic and ill-advised; there are currently 15,000 16-18 year olds enrolled on T-level courses, compared to over 250,000 16-18 year olds enrolled on BTECs. Pressing ahead with plans to defund these qualifications would leave current students with a great deal of uncertainty and for many prospective students, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, this removes an accessible pathway into higher education.  

For London’s higher education institutions, including many of our members, much work has been done to drive social mobility, with BTEC students able to access a broader range of institutions and courses. Removal of these qualifications would see a significant step backwards in access and participation. For young Londoners, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, BTECs are now a well-established route into higher education; according to research from the Social Market Foundation, around one in four students (26%) entering university in London enters with a BTEC qualification. For many students, BTECs are the only route into higher education; further research from the Social Market Foundation identified that in England more widely, 44% of white working-class children and 48% of black British children who go to university have at least one BTEC. 37% of black British students go to university with only BTEC qualifications. Removal of BTECs would disproportionately impact students from these disadvantaged demographics.   

While in the long term, T-levels have the potential to diversify and strengthen vocational post-16 pathways, the hasty removal of BTECs will achieve the opposite of this and could lead to further skills gaps. We support a review of current plans and encourage ministers to consider an approach that allows BTECs to continue as a driver of social mobility and accessible pathway into higher education.