The Policy Brief – January 2011
UNITED KINGDOM POLICY
Lifelong Learning UK relicensing
The UK Commission for Employment & Skills has decided not to relicense Lifelong Learning UK as a Sector Skills Council in its own right. Although the details for future arrangements have not been made,
it is clear that responsibilities will be transferred to other public sector bodies from 1 April 2011. The UKCES is in negotiation with those bodies now to review the potential options.
GREAT BRITAIN POLICY
Skills Conditionality of benefits
The Department for Work & Pensions has launched a consultation on attaching skills conditionality to benefits, as part of its wider move to make benefits more conditional on certain aspects of claimants’ behaviour. Under this approach, Jobcentre Plus referrals to training providers, colleges or Next Step advisers, would have benefit sanctions for non-participation.
Training could include vocational, basic skills, employability training as well as support with softer skills such as motivation and confidence building.
The consultation runs until 3 February.
Specification of Apprenticeship Standards in England
The Department of Business Innovation & Skills has moved to the system of Specification of Apprenticeship Standards in England (SASE), which has just been published. The Specification sets out the standards and relationship to National Occupational Standards that are required for Intermediate (37 units at Level 2), Advanced (37 units at Level 3) and Higher Apprenticeships (37 units at Level 4 or a specified HNC/HND or Foundation Degree).
Guided Learning Hours remain consistent for all levels of Apprenticeship, at 280 hours.
Local Enterprise Partnerships – New LEPS
Four more Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) have been announced, bringing the total to 28.
The four additional ones are:
• North East
• New Anglia
• Black Country
The North East LEP will be additional to the Tees Valley LEP already announced, and will effectively mean that one LEP area is contained within another.
The New Anglia LEP will cover Norfolk and Suffolk.
To help the setup of LEPs, the Government has announced a £4M LEP Capacity Fund, aimed at analysis of economic circumstances in LEP areas.
Local Enterprise Partnerships – Select Committee
The Business, Innovation & Skills Select Committee has published its review of the setup of LEPs, and although broadly supportive of their aims, suggests that more needs doing to ensure their success.
The committee believes that LEPs have great potential, but need certainty and some funding in their own right if they are to fulfil the responsibilities they are being given. The report recognises the benefits and achievements of RDAs, and suggests that too little is being done to transfer these over to the LEP arrangements, including partnerships and expertise already established by RDAs.
Higher Education funding reforms
The incremental publication of the reforms to the HE funding regime in England continues, following the Government’s success in the Commons vote on the issue.
The key elements of the package are:
• Any university or college will be able to charge below £6,000. Universities and colleges wanting to charge above £6,000 a year will have to show how they will spend some of the additional income making progress in widening participation and fair access. The Office for Fair Access will be able to apply sanctions in cases where universities do not deliver on the commitments in their access agreements, up to and including withdrawing the right of the university to charge more than £6,000.
• In exceptional cases, universities will be able to charge higher contributions, up to a limit of £9,000, subject to meeting much tougher conditions on widening participation and fair access. It will be up to the university or college to decide what it charges, including whether it charges at different levels for different courses.
Loans and maintenance grants
• The Government will lend any eligible student the money to pay the university or college for tuition costs. Students from families with incomes of up to £25,000 will be entitled to a more generous student maintenance grant of £3,250 and those from families with incomes up to £42,000 will be entitled to a partial grant.
• Maintenance loans will be available to all eligible full time students irrespective of income.
• All eligible part-time undergraduates who study for at least 25% of their time will now be able to apply for a loan to cover the costs of their tuition.
• Part-time students will not however be eligible for maintenance support.
Graduates will not make a contribution towards tuition costs until they are earning at least £21,000, up from the current £15,000. The repayment will be 9% of income above £21,000, and all outstanding repayments will be written off after 30 years. The £21,000 earnings threshold will also be uprated annually in line with earnings.
Unlike the current system, a real rate of interest will be charged on loan repayments, but with a progressive taper:
• For graduates earning below £21,000, there will be no real rate of interest applied to their loan.
• For graduates earning between £21,000 and around £41,000, a real rate of interest will start to be charged, reaching a maximum of RPI plus 3%.
• Above £41,000, graduates will repay at the maximum, rate of RPI plus 3%
Higher Education Funding
The Scottish Government has published a Green Paper consultation on the approach to Higher Education funding in Scotland, in the light of budget cuts to reduce the public deficit. It runs until 25 February 2011.
Its stated objectives are to produce a simpler, fairer system of funding, and the consultation includes the suggestion that there should be a minimum income guarantee of £7k for Scottish students.
This publication comes at a time when the Scottish Budget Bill has been published, setting out planned cuts across Government departments, to meet the reductions meted out by Whitehall, but which were delayed by a year by all three of the Devolved Administrations
The Policy Brief is a monthly summary of skills and employment policy developments in the UK. Information is provided to help skills and employment professionals to keep abreast of key current developments in summary form only, and no guarantee is made regarding accuracy. No liability for reliance on the information in this document can be accepted.
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