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Higher Education in UK – Detailed case studies of partnerships for high-level skills

The UK has a world-class university system that plays a crucial role in producing a highly skilled workforce that can meet the rapidly shifting needs of the country. To remain responsive, the sector is developing new models and approaches. Partnerships between higher education, further education, employers and other parts of the tertiary education system are one such approach. Alongside traditional routes and provision, these have a growing role to play in addressing the UK’s skills challenges by providing integrated pathways to higher level skills for learners on vocational and technical, as well as traditional academic routes. These are new and emerging areas and this report explores the extent and nature of these partnerships, o ers insights into the key drivers of collaboration and the bene ts for students as well as for the partners involved.

We undertook eight detailed case studies (see the accompanying case study report) and gathered evidence from other stakeholders. The case studies illustrate how this type of collaboration can grow and work in practice. There is growing and diverse collaboration between HE, FE and employers. Partners are taking innovative approaches to ensure that their collaborations are e ective and that pathways and courses developed are industry-relevant, meet de ned skills needs, provide coherent progression and exible opportunities to engage in learning. This is vital for developing new talent
to ensure a future skills pipeline but also for upskilling and reskilling the current workforce in response to changing skills needs.

This type of collaboration is unlikely to develop spontaneously between partners with
no history of working together, but tend to emerge from pre-existing relationships. Key drivers for collaboration are economic (addressing skills needs and improving graduate employability), social (enhancing the accessibility of provision to attract a broader range of potential learners and support social mobility) and in response to policy developments (such as the apprenticeship levy). Additional bene ts of collaboration include shared learning and sta development, enhanced nancial sustainability, stronger relationships and opportunities to develop new partnership projects.

Developing collaborations is not without challenges. Different institutions and employer partners can bring competing interests, demands and expectations, as well as di erent terminology and perspectives, which need to be managed. Educational institutions are increasingly competing for students, and ways to overcome or set this aside are needed for e ective collaboration. Developing partnerships can require a signi cant time and resource input, particularly if creating a new programme, model of working or exible learning opportunities. For collaborations undertaking innovative projects and breaking new ground, there is unlikely to be established practice or learning to work from.
Developing collaborations is not without challenges. Different institutions and employer partners can bring competing interests, demands and expectations.

The case studies overcame these challenges to create strong collaborations.

Key ingredients for success include: finding spaces (subject, level or target student) for collaboration where institutions do not see themselves in competition; early identification of a shared goal or vision; recognising and respecting the strengths of partners; identifying and mapping progression routes; and focusing on the speci c skills needs of the locality, identi ed through substantial employer engagement and working with other stakeholders such as Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and other sector bodies.
Partnership working of this type is still emerging and developing, particularly
in response to shifting and diverse educational policy agendas across the UK, such as
an increase in new apprenticeship standards and reviews of post-16 and post-18 education in England. Yet there are clear potential bene ts and opportunities to expand and extend such approaches alongside more traditional routes and modes of study. Below we set out issues to consider further to help support and grow these types of important collaborations between tertiary education and employers to meet needs for higher
level skills.

This report contains case studies from across the UK, recognising the diversity of initiatives and settings, and that higher education institutions across the whole country are developing innovative approaches and looking beyond traditional models. In terms of the issues for consideration set out below, much of this area is devolved and specific recommendations made refer largely to an English policy context.

via Routes to high-level skills

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