We commissioned the consultants Pye Tait to investigate employer demand for intermediate technical higher education (HE) – both to understand the nature of provision and to test whether there is latent demand. The study came about because of evidence (particularly from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) showing that the UK has relatively low proportions of this type of provision, yet there is demand in the economy for intermediate-level skills.
The key findings of the report are:
- It is difficult to define the market for intermediate technical HE qualifications. They are not necessarily a good proxy for the technician role in the economy, which is diverse.
- Employers are aware of the different types of intermediate qualifications, but few employers in the survey recruit from this level, and employers do not fully understand their distinctive purpose.
- Employers generally recruit graduates from Level 6 for technician roles despite not requiring this level for the job, and this practice is increasing. Recruiting graduates from Level 6 is largely due to prestige of degrees and the ready supply of graduates.
- However, evidence also suggests that employers have some concerns that graduate skills are less suitable for technician-level roles. Apprenticeship routes and work experience are particularly valued for technician roles.
- Barriers to future demand for intermediate qualifications include:
- A complex system which means employers lack understanding of the value of such qualifications to their organisation.
- Limited promotion of such qualifications (with information, advice and guidance being focused on HE aspirations).
- The lack of prestige associated with intermediate qualifications.
- The current funding regime.
- New developments, such as degree apprenticeships, potentially adding to the confusion for employers.
Over recent years, the numbers of students studying sub-degree level qualifications in higher education has declined, including part-time students. This report forms part of the evidence base for institutions, employers and policy-makers to reflect on the nature of intermediate level higher education that would best meet needs of the economy and society.