The Independent

Minister quizzed on MBA courses funded by taxpayers


MPs have tackled an education minister over the scandal of taxpayer-funded university courses for high earners after an investigat­ion by The Independen­t.

The government has agreed to take action to end the misuse of the apprentice­ship levy to subsidise “ineligible MBA courses”

for top executives. Appearing in front of the education select committee, the skills and apprentice­ships minister Robert Halfon was challenged on whether it had been the “right use” of the funds.

The chair of the committee, Tory MP Robin Walker, pointed to

The Independen­t’s investigat­ion and asked Mr Halfon: “Given the need to get young people into work and build the ladder of opportunit­y, do you think that was the right use of apprentice­ship levy?”

Mr Halfon told the committee that ministers had “got rid of the MBA element” in 2021. But The Independen­t revealed earlier this month that the courses continue to be subsidised despite a government crackdown two years ago.

Up to £100m has been spent part-funding them over the past five years. On Monday the minister said: “If there is evidence that the levy is being spent on ineligible courses, such as to fund an MBA, we will take appropriat­e action.”

Examples sent to the Department for Education include Loughborou­gh University, which boasts on its website: “The three-year Loughborou­gh Executive MBA has been designed to also meet the requiremen­ts of the Level 7 Senior Leadership Apprentice­ship.” Adding that “this enables applicants and their employers to utilise the Apprentice­ship Levy to partially fund the MBA programme”.

Also included was Cranfield University, which says: “This [web] page is for students seeking a Senior Leader Apprentice­ship + Executive MBA via the Apprentice­ship Levy. Eligible organisati­ons can use their apprentice­ship levy to cover Part 1 of the programme tuition fee.”

Former Tory education secretary Gavin Williamson has previously said the courses are “not the spirit of what the apprentice­ship levy was set up for”. Former Labour education secretary Alan Johnson also hit out, saying the funding “makes a nonsense of the objectives of the levy. It was to help young people into work not help executives onto the gravy train”.

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 ?? (PA) ?? Up to £100m has been spent part - funding ‘apprentice­ships’ for top executives over the past five years
(PA) Up to £100m has been spent part - funding ‘apprentice­ships’ for top executives over the past five years

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