IHE calls on next government to commit to a modern and diverse tertiary system

Read our Manifesto for higher education and our 10 recommendations for the next Government.

front page of the Manifesto for Higher Education report

Independent Higher Education (IHE) has today published A manifesto for higher education, setting out how independent providers can support a new vision for the UK of transformation, growth and prosperity. 

A modern and diverse tertiary education system which promotes innovation, excellence and flexibility is within grasp. The Manifesto presents the ways in which Government should draw on independent providers – as pioneers, innovators, and industry specialists – to unlock new opportunities for growth and diversification. 

The Manifesto includes examples of IHE members who are already having an impact within their industries and local communities, including MetFilm School, the National Motorsport Academy (NMA), and The Engineering & Design Institute London (TEDI-London). 

The agility and close industry links of independent providers make them perfectly placed to leverage a new and more flexible system of lifelong learning to drive growth in the economy at a local and national level. The Manifesto’s 10 recommendations to the next Government would help to maximise this growth and the responsiveness of the UK’s education and training sector to the needs of the economy and society. 

Alex Proudfoot, IHE Chief Executive, said: 

"Education is the key to unlocking a fairer and more prosperous society, and a more resilient and agile economy – helping to achieve the long-term sustainable growth from which everyone benefits. The fundamentals of the UK are strong, but a renewed national mission can build on these strengths through a strategic approach to education – the best investment in its people that a Government can buy.

“In this Manifesto we show how Independent Higher Education, and the very special institutions in our membership, are ready to play our part in powering economic growth and realising an optimistic vision of the future. This is our blueprint for change.”

James Pitman, IHE Chair and UK Managing Director of Study Group, said: 

"The UK benefits from one of the most diverse, flexible and innovative education sectors in the world. Together with our unassailable reputation for quality, it is why we enjoy the enviable position that we do as a global hub for education and training. 

“IHE understands that the road to economic growth and prosperity will be paved with a million different choices made by individuals learning how to reach their full potential. There is no single path to productivity, no secret recipe for economic success, but a tertiary system that protects student choice, promotes investment and trade, and responds directly to employers’ needs must certainly get close. 

“This Manifesto is a roadmap the next Government can follow with confidence.” 

IHE and its members are committed to putting the student interest first. We are the only higher education representative body to appoint a student to our Board, so that our core value of student focus is never far from view. The IHE Manifesto recognises the significant challenges that students face in the UK today, and recommends new measures to support them better with their lifelong learning needs.

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), said:

“This is an excellent Manifesto, focusing on the needs of employers, independent higher education providers and, most importantly, students. It rightly recognises that the cost-of-living crisis has affected students more than most. Maintenance support has fallen behind the actual costs of being a student year after year, meaning many students cannot currently enjoy higher education to the full. 

“Today’s students typically had their schooling badly disrupted by the pandemic and so we owe it to them to make sure they can now get the best out of their higher education. If we don’t, we will be letting down the workers of tomorrow as well as the students of today. I urge election candidates for all the political parties and any new Government to engage with IHE’s sensible proposals.”

This Manifesto is a roadmap the next Government can follow with confidence

IHE’s Manifesto supports the emergence of a tertiary education system in England, alongside developments elsewhere in the UK, and calls on the next Government to commit to the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE) as the foundation for flexible learning within this system, supporting both traditional classroom and workplace-centred educational pathways.

Baroness Alison Wolf CBE, Sir Roy Griffiths Professor of Public Sector Management at King's College London and former skills adviser to the Prime Minister, said:

“Done right, the Lifelong Learning Entitlement can create genuine lifelong access, and transform tertiary education's links to the labour market. But as IHE emphasise, it absolutely has to be flexible. I am very pleased to see this point made so strongly in their Manifesto.”

Another recommendation in the Manifesto is for the introduction of new Technical Education Awarding Powers to allow specialist technical institutions to design, deliver and award their own qualifications. The current approach to qualifications makes the delivery of industry-valued technical programmes far more bureaucratic and cumbersome than for traditional higher education, and this distinction is one of the causes underlying the failure of recent attempts to improve the take-up and reputation of technical education.

Professor James Robson, Director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Skills, Knowledge, and Organisational Performance (SKOPE), said: 

“The UK has some of the best education and training in the world, but, by international standards, we struggle to reap either the social or economic dividends we should expect for the money we invest. A more unified tertiary education system that provides a diverse range of pathways, flexibility for learners across their careers, and links education and training with research and innovation would make all the difference. 

“The IHE Manifesto makes a compelling case for exactly this kind of joined up approach and illustrates how the innovation and industrial specialisation that independent providers are known for are essential to a successful and resilient tertiary system. 

“The proposal for Technical Education Awarding Powers could be a game changer. Recent Ministers have repeatedly claimed to be revolutionising technical education, but, for all the fanfare and fuss, their top-down policies have fallen flat. Perhaps it is time to let the professionals take the lead by empowering those institutions that have already proven their worth within their industries to design and deliver their own awards. This can only be a good thing for students and the economy.”

The proposal for Technical Education Awarding Powers could be a game changer

Some of the most successful independent higher education providers operate as specialist institutions from within, and in support of, the UK’s world-leading creative industries. The IHE Manifesto calls on the next Government to create the conditions for more investment in this specialist provision for the specific industries and areas with the potential for high growth. 

Richard Connell, Chief Executive of Metropolis Studios, said:

“At Metropolis Studios we have hugely benefitted from the independent provider sector, which produces graduates with the technical skills we require to continue pushing the boundaries of music production. 70% of UK chart music is recorded, mixed or mastered at Metropolis in any given year but each year the technology and techniques within music production and the wider creative industries evolves meaning a continual cycle of learning for our staff. 

“This is why we are backing IHE’s Manifesto request for the next Government to commit to the lifelong learning entitlement to create an environment, and funding mechanism, for people to engage with upskilling through their life. We also back the request for investment in high-quality specialist education and training across the UK to ensure that the technical skills required to power the creative industries continue to be world-leading.”

The IHE Manifesto celebrates the UK’s leading position in the global education market, and calls for a new strategy to maximise the benefits of international students and education exports, including a targeted plan to support education SMEs, a competitive and streamlined visa system and a better approach to data and statistics to inform policy and planning.

Lord Bilimoria CBE DL, Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, President of UKCISA, and Director of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) UK, said: 

“Growing international education should be at the forefront of every party’s election platform. But that growth should be balanced across the UK and shared with both academic and technical education, supporting our specialist colleges and our great British industry.” 

“IHE is right to challenge the way we count international students in net migration figures. They are temporary but contribute so much in the short time they are here. To grow our economy we need to use real data which recognises the immense value of these students.”  

“Every business benefits from export support, and education is no different. Small and specialist higher education providers, so often linked with their industries and with excellent global reputations, deserve a dedicated plan to help them promote and enhance the reputation of UK education internationally.”

A manifesto for higher education

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