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Vocational learning at the University of Bath: students on the Sports Performance Foundation Degree
Vocational learning at the University of Bath: students on the Sports Performance Foundation Degree

Press Release - 18 January 2006

£3.8 million for Swindon-based project to fill local training gaps

An extra £3.8 million is to be spent in Swindon and the rest of the South West to get more people to study vocational courses at university.

A University of Bath in Swindon-based project has been awarded the money because people studying vocational subjects at school or college are half as likely to continue this at university as those taking traditional A levels.

The move will be welcome in Swindon, which has one of the country’s lowest rates of school leavers going into higher education and has gaps in its vocational courses at higher education level.

The Western Vocational Lifelong Learning Network, based at the University’s Oakfield campus, is part of a national initiative and brings together representatives from higher education institutions across the northern half of the South West.

The network was established to broaden access to vocational higher education for all ages. In 2005 approximately 90 per cent of A level students progressed on to higher education compared to 45 per cent who had vocational skills.

The Network will find out which vocational courses are lacking in the region and will help to set them up in the partner universities and local colleges. These are: Bath Spa University, University of Bristol, University of Gloucestershire, Open University (South West), Royal Agricultural College and University of West of England

Steve Dear, Business Development Manager for the Lifelong Learning Network, said: “For vocational learners the two main obstacles to continuing into higher education are accessibility, especially if you are working as you learn, and availability. A level students develop skills that are ‘oven ready’ for university education while vocational learners have different skills, and in many cases students can’t progress their studies because there is nowhere local offering a suitable course.

“The network will identify these gaps and introduce new courses, promote delivery styles which suit work-based learners and develop new progression routes across the South West. Swindon is a good example of an area which would lend itself to more locally-based higher education training for industry and commerce to support specialist skills.”

The first step for the network is to assess existing course availability and build a database listing all the local courses and possible progression routes. The database will be used by students and employers across South West to identify new opportunities.

“This is just the first phase of the project, which will run initially for three years. The network will create real opportunities for students of all ages across our region. We want people to take their learning further.”

The project is funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

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