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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