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HEFCE implemented the workforce development programme as part of the Government's response to the Leitch review of skills. In 2007, the Government's grant letter to HEFCE stated:

'We need to develop radical approaches that can lead to much higher levels of access to higher education by older people already in the workplace. This means models of HE that make available relevant, flexible and responsive provision that meets the high skill needs of employers and their staff.'

In total, HEFCE has allocated over £100 million development funding and implemented a co-funding model to support growth of at least 35,000 new entrants to HE that are co-supported by their employers. This funding has supported a diverse range of projects, including two led by Sector Skills Councils, and the HE Academy has developed examples of effective practice and facilitated networking of the project institutions.

We commissioned CFE and the KSA partnership to undertake an evaluation of the programme against the original aims and objectives. The report has found that institutions successfully implemented new infrastructure which has led to development of relationships with employers. HEFCE funding has enabled institutions to test new approaches, while the recession meant that institutions have needed to adapt to maintain business with employers. The report points to areas that need further development if institutions are to continue to develop their activities – these include evaluating the impact of provision on employers to strengthen business development, and the need for more effective costing and pricing.

As the programme draws to a close, we will begin to phase out co-funding as part of the wider reforms to students fees and finance. We anticipate that the findings of the report will be helpful to those institutions moving from the co-funding model to a sustainable alternative. The report should also be of interest to people involved in work based learning more broadly.