More Support for Vocational Students Needed | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

More Support for Vocational Students Needed

Half of white working-class and black British students in the UK gain university places with vocational qualifications, but new research argues that more support is needed in order for more students with BTEC or equivalent grades to access higher education places.

The report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) titled ‘Vocation, Vocation, Vocation’ suggests that these students are at risk of ‘institutional snobbery’ from universities who fail to recognise the validity of their post-16 qualifications.

UCAS data from students in 2016 who did a BTEC, A-levels, or combination of the two was analysed in order to reveal the disparity between those who took vocational courses and those who followed the more traditional A-level route.

SMF found a regional divide in the figures, with 48 percent of white working-class students in the north-east of England and Yorkshire accepting a university offer with at least one BTEC. 35 percent of this group went to university solely based on BTEC grades.

The results were similar for black British children; 48 percent of those progressing onto higher education had at least one BTEC and 37 percent had no A-levels.

The report calls for a ‘national conversation’ aimed at raising the profile of vocational qualifications. With the introduction of T-levels in 2020, SMF warns that a lack of support for vocational students could exacerbate the bifurcation of post-16 education.

SMF is keen to point out that a binary choice between academic and technical education would only increase the ‘snobbery’ from universities who value a more traditional route into their institutions.

Little attention is also given to combined courses such as Applied Generals, which could prove popular with employers looking for a workforce with a range of intellectual and practical skills.

I’d hate to think that college students doing diplomas and BTECs in engineering were being shut out of coming here

Most universities – particularly those in the Russell Group – do not publish their requirements for students with vocational qualifications, creating a ‘barrier for entry’ for white-working class and black British students.

UoB does publish vocational requirements for students looking to study subjects such as Engineering and Computer Science, although they stress that places will only be awarded with a combination of A-levels and BTEC qualifications.

When asked about the report, one third-year Mechanical Engineering student said: ‘We have such a great engineering department at UoB. I’d hate to think that college students doing diplomas and BTECs in engineering were being shut out of coming here, purely because they didn’t take the ‘traditional’ route into university’.

The report sets out how universities can combat this issue in order to ensure that people from poorer backgrounds and ethnic minorities can still gain university places which, as the Director of SMF James Kirkup suggests, will ‘make Britain’s world-class university system truly fair and open to all’.

Second Year English. Assistant Arts Editor at The National Student. (@liam_taft_)


3rd March 2018 at 9:00 am

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Gavin Warrins