Ian Pretty


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Why we mustn’t forget colleges on exam results day

Qualifications regulator Ofqual is warning pupils across England, Wales and Northern Ireland that A-level grades are likely to be down this year – and that competition for some courses and universities will be fiercer than ever. It comes after exams were cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic and teacher assessment saw an increase in top grades.

At the Collab Group, we believe the positioning of universities as the preferred post-school option needs to change – and change now. Further education (FE) colleges offer students a rich educational and social experience on par with universities and should be showcased as a such.

Additionally, our research shows that students who attend Collab Group member colleges are more likely to complete their course of study, are more likely to develop the essential people skills needed in the future world of work, and are able to quickly secure well-paid work in their chosen field.

Here’s what our research found…

Collab Group member colleges have qualified teachers who teach ‘in demand’ skills to an industry standard; our member colleges form strong relationships with local employers, increasing employment opportunities for graduates; and our member college graduates earn significantly more than they would have otherwise.

Students who attend our member colleges enjoy smaller than average class sizes, which increases the amount of direct teaching time and access to specialised equipment – leading to better outcomes. Our analysis found there was a significantly greater benefit to the local economy when level 4/5 technical courses were undertaken at FE colleges than universities.

Our member colleges tend to recruit from the local area and offer a more supportive learning environment, which means students get what they need, when they need it, and are more likely to graduate.

Finally, Collab Group member college courses more competitively priced than other institutions – meaning graduates are less likely to be saddled with huge student loans they can’t pay back. Our analysis found most universities charge the maximum amount for level 4/5 courses as opposed to our colleges, which usually come in thousands of pounds below the price cap.

FE colleges – the forgotten future

FE colleges offer students a rich and diverse experience that will equip them with the knowledge, skills and experiences to be successful in the future world of work. They also offer the right solutions for the UK’s current, and impending, skills and economic growth challenges. Ahead of results day on Thursday, it’s time to change the narrative that universities are the best and only option for our school leavers.

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