Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7538736244 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7951044809.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Higher Technical Education in England - reform, uptake and delivery, regulation and standards, and contribution to economic recovery

Morning, Wednesday, 21st April 2021

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference focuses on the next steps for higher technical education in England, as new higher technical qualifications are developed for first teaching in 2022.

The conference takes place amidst considerable changes in the policy landscape surrounding technical education in England, and increased focus on improving the quality of its provision to meet the skills needed by British industry, the labour market and economy.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who have already booked to attend from the BEIS; the DCMS; the DfE; the DIT; the Geospatial Commission; the MOD; Ofsted; the Valuation Office Agency and the Welsh Government.

The discussion at a glance:

  • delivery - priorities for improvement in higher technical education
  • standards - how they can be regulated and maintained for the new qualifications
  • uptake and engagement - how the profile of the qualifications can be raised amongst prospective students and best serve the needs of employers
  • contributing to employment and the economy - the focus for closing technical skills gaps and contributing to post-pandemic economic recovery

The agenda

  • Higher technical education - the state of play and priorities for implementing the reformed qualifications
  • The independent consultation on higher technical education - an overview of key findings
  • Improving the delivery of higher technical education - increasing take-up, improving the brand, funding and supporting providers, and addressing cold spots in provision
  • Regulation and maintaining standards for the new higher technical education qualifications
  • The international higher technical education landscape - what can be learned for developing the UK system
  • Closing the technical skills gaps and boosting the post-pandemic economy - key shortage areas, improving co-operation with employers, and providing high quality on-the-job experience
  • Approving qualifications and improving standards through the new quality mark - experience so far with the national approval scheme and next steps forward

Areas for discussion:

  • the key reforms - what will be needed from government, regulation, and stakeholders to achieve the strategic policy aims for improving the provision of higher technical education at levels 4 and 5:
    • quality - and ensuring that higher technical qualifications meet employer needs, and the way forward for the design and use of the new government-backed quality mark scheme
    • standards - priorities for the Government’s work with Ofsted and the Office for Students in ensuring consistently high standards in the provision of higher technical courses
    • meeting employer needs - looking at the newly-approved higher technical qualifications in digital fields, health, sciences and construction, and further options going forward
    • marketing - strategies for raising the profile, awareness and understanding of higher technical education courses amongst prospective students and employers
  • implementation - how a joined-up system can be developed between technical education and industry that:
    • clearly communicates the value of individual HTQs
    • supports learner progression
    • earns the trust of employers
  • awareness and uptake - following concern over low levels of take-up of HTQs, assessing:
    • progress so far - with the public awareness campaign announced by the DfE
    • next steps - for improving the profile of higher technical education
  • international best practice - discussing how insights from HTE systems in other countries where take-up is higher inform ways to improve HTQs in this country
    • with a contribution from Dr Anthony Mann, Head, VET and Adult Learning Team, OECD
  • support and staffing - looking at funding and what further measures will be needed by HTE providers to provide the outcomes needed by students and employers, including qualified, trained staff,
  • innovation in delivery - lessons that the sector can learn from provision of HTE during the COVID-19 pandemic, and how virtual or blended learning might be incorporated into future practice
  • regional variation - following concern over cold spots in HTE provision:
    • addressing geographical inequalities - looking at the current state of play and strategies for addressing outstanding issues
    • the potential impact of policy measures - such as the announced eight new Institutes of Technology aimed at improving accessibility across England to high quality vocational education
  • regulation - priorities for an effective regime that reflects the hands-on nature of HTE, and discussing progress following the return to inspections in remote format
  • employment - how to maximise the opportunities for HTE graduates:
    • to fill the skills gaps in the labour market - and to be able to enter high quality technical jobs that fill such gaps
    • in a challenging economic environment - particularly and with increased unemployment in the wake of the pandemic
  • employer involvement:
    • how to strengthen collaboration and information sharing between employers and providers
    • including on-the-job experience that accurately reflects the practical skills needed by industry and individual employers
  • skills priorities - assessing:
    • how well HTE is being geared to serve key skill needs both for economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic and for the longer term
    • implications for the range of courses and qualifications, and the geographic spread of provision into the future

A scan of relevant developments:

  • Major overhaul of higher technical education announced - a package of measures, including newly approved higher technical qualifications to be launched from September 2022, focused on:
    • ensuring quality in level 4 and 5 qualifications and their provision, and that they meet employer needs, with the introduction of new digital, health, science and construction qualifications
    • raising the profile of the courses and qualifications amongst prospective students and employers
  • the Lifetime Skills Guarantee - announced by the PM to help ensure the technical education system is providing the economy with the necessary skills
  • the recently published further education Skills for Jobs White Paper - for consultation this year and including proposals on funding, accountability and DfE intervention when a college is failing
  • Universities Minister calls for true social mobility - setting out the policy aim of putting the needs of students and their career ambitions first, irrespective of whether they take a HE or FE path
  • Competition opens for new wave of Institutes of Technology - eight new institutes to be created in areas without an IoT, in the South East, East of England, Midlands, and the North West
  • supporting youth employment and upskilling the workforce - policy in the wake of the economic impact of the pandemic, including:
    • the Plan for Jobs and the follow-up Job Support Scheme
    • the £2bn Kickstart Scheme - providing work placements for 16-24 year olds on Universal Credit as well as £111m worth of funding for traineeships
  • wider policy - including the Industrial Strategy and the UK Digital Strategy

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the DCMS; the Department for Education; the Department for International Trade; the Geospatial Commission; the Ministry of Defence; Ofsted; the Valuation Office Agency and the Welsh Government. Also due to attend are representatives from Barclays Bank; College of Paramedics; Food and Drink Federation; Manufacturing Technology Centre; NCFE; NHS Employers; Student Loans Company; The Oldham College; The Open University; University College Birmingham; University of Bolton; University of Chester; University of Warwick; Weston College; and York College.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Philip Wilson

Partner, York Consulting

Claire Gill

Associate Director, Strategic Relationships, Vocational and Technical Qualifications, Ofqual

Carmel Grant

Deputy Director - Technical Education Implementation and Delivery, Institute for Apprenticeships

Keynote Speakers

Philip Wilson

Partner, York Consulting

Cheryl Mendes and Ronnie Whittington

Heads of Higher Technical Education, Department for Education

Dr Anthony Mann

Head, VET and Adult Learning Team, OECD

Claire Gill

Associate Director, Strategic Relationships, Vocational and Technical Qualifications, Ofqual

Carmel Grant

Deputy Director - Technical Education Implementation and Delivery, Institute for Apprenticeships


Lord Storey

Liberal Democrats Education Spokesperson, House of Lords

The Rt Hon the Lord Baker of Dorking

former Secretary of State for Education and Science 1986-1989, and Chairman, Baker Dearing Educational Trust


Emily Jones

Head of Research, Learning and Work Institute

Shane Chowen

Area Director, Midlands and Lead, High Volume Apprenticeships Group, Association of Colleges

Patrick Craven

Director of Quality, Policy and Stakeholder Engagement, City and Guilds

Mark Smith

Chief Executive Officer, Ada. National College for Digital Skills

Alissa Dhaliwal

Head of Education & Skills, Confederation of British Industry

Mike Clancy

General Secretary, Prospect Union

Clare Riley

Education Skills Lead, Microsoft UK

Pat Carvalho

Principal, Harrow College and Lead, West London Institute of Technology