‘We can lead the world on technical education’
New FE sector alliance aims for UK to be the global leader in the next decade
WITH SOME honourable exceptions, efforts to export the UK’S brand of technical and vocational education overseas in recent times have met with limited success.
The Colleges of Excellence programme to establish a wave of new technical education colleges in Saudi Arabia was hailed by the government back in 2014 as a “£1 billion exports win for UK education”. But punitive contracts, recruitment challenges and problems on the ground led to several colleges dropping out of the programme.
In 2013, the Association of Colleges launched AOC India to help its members tap into the potentially lucrative market in the subcontinent. Last year, the AOC confirmed that the venture was to cease its operations, with policy turbulence meaning that colleges were “likely to focus closer to home”.
Indeed, as far back as 2012, former Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw was quick to rebuke colleges for taking their eye off the ball closer to home, and stressed the need to focus on “Deptford not Delhi”. All the while, the UK’S competitors, such as Germany, Australia, Canada and the US, have been making their presence felt in emerging educational markets across the globe.
But now an alliance of organisations has been created to build a coherent package of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) for the export market with a view to putting the UK at the forefront of international skills provision.
The Department for International Trade has joined forces with the AOC, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, the British Council and the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) to create the UK Skills Partnership, which will be formally launched in October.
FAB chief executive Stephen Wright says the partnership is “well-placed to establish the UK as the global leader in TVET in the 2020s”. “The UK has a strong reputation and is well-placed to take a leading role in the emerging international TVET market due to well-written, ‘world-class’ standards, qualifications that have international currency and excellent training skills,” he adds.
“The UK Skills Partnership has been formed to support the collaborative approach required to take advantage of this opportunity. Although still a relatively new group, the ambition is significant. In the 1950s, through thought leadership, research, application and effectiveness, the US established itself as the undisputed global leader in marketing. In the 1980s, Japan was acknowledged as the global leader in manufacturing. By working together with a clear proposition, we are wellplaced to establish the UK as the global leader in TVET in the 2020s.”
Speaking earlier this month, Jonathan Ledger, global TVET specialist at the Department for International Trade, said that while Germany had been successful in promoting its technical education overseas, the UK potentially has more to offer if it can explain its provision in simpler terms.
He told a Westminster Education Forum event on the future of UK education abroad: “We’re too quick to run around the world and tell them how complex TVET is… Actually, it kind of undermines what we’re doing overseas.
“The Department for International Trade is working really hard now with its partners to be able to clean up what TVET looks like and how it’s presented to the rest of the world, so that we stand a better chance. If the Germans