Short course trial update

Numbers singularly fail to go brrrrrrr

David Kernohan is Deputy Editor of Wonkhe

You’ll be aware that we have been keeping an eye on the DfE/OfS Short Courses Trial – a means of helping the government understand the demand for short, credit-bearing, courses at levels 4-6 backed by an undergraduate style loan.

Back in September of last year just twelve learners had taken this particular plunge (based on an enticing offer of 103 courses from 22 providers). By January, this number had risen to 33.

Here we are in June, and I can reveal that the Student Loans Company has approved a massive 37 loans in total to date. Those multiple start dates across the spring have yielded an extra 5 loans.

I’ve got a bit more background this time. Some 206 learners applied to short courses in the trial, and there has been 114 enrolments as a result. SLC then received 46 applications (again, in total since the start of the trial) of which 37 have been approved.

I need hardly tell you that that’s an average enrolment of a little over one student per course, and that less people took out the loans (that are the avowed purpose of the Lifelong Learning (Higher Education Fee Limits) Bill currently awaiting a House of Lords second reading) than have announced they are standing down as an MP since the 2019 election.

I am aware that demand for lifelong learning and vocational short courses from higher education providers remains strong, and that the idea that a more coherent skills offer is good for the workforce and the economy is pretty much inarguable. But I am increasingly worried that very little work has been done on the demand for this kind of funding offer for short courses, and the evidence that does exist is unconvincing.

Very much one for our House of Lords readers to raise next week in the debate.


2 responses to “Short course trial update

  1. It is disappointing but not surprising when the HE providers with the most experience of short course delivery and the best understanding of the market for this provision were excluded from participation by the poor design of the trial – and most significantly the impracticable timetable. We warned DfE and OfS of precisely this outcome. Sadly, I think its utility as an evidence base for LLE is compromised as a result.

  2. A potentially good idea that’s be very badly implemented, and with the growing cost of living how many will want to commit to yet another debt? Marketing to adults needs to be ADULT, not more of the same ‘stuff’ that’s suitable for attracting children still in secondary school.

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