Rishi Sunak has vowed to phase out university degrees that do not improve students’ “earning potential”, create a Russell Group of world-class technical colleges and introduce a British baccalaureate that would prevent 16-year-olds from dropping maths and English.
The Tory leadership hopeful said his plans to reform post-16 education marked “a significant stride towards parity of esteem between vocational and academic education”.
Under his plans, which would be implemented over the next parliament, students would be able to study for a baccalaureate that would allow them to drop maths or English only if they achieved high grades in other subjects.
Mr Sunak said the changes would help to address the “historical injustices” faced by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who are less likely to go to university and more likely to earn less over their lifetimes.
He added: “We need to end the false choice between academic and vocational routes and create a world-class technical education system that is the envy of the world.
“That means a Radical shift in the status and perception of technical education, with a new focus on quality, not quantity.”
The plans would create a “new generation” of technical colleges, which would offer courses leading to internationally recognised qualifications, such as the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education’s higher and degree apprenticeships.
Mr Sunak said he wanted to see the new institutions become “the UK equivalent of the German Fraunhofer Institutes or the Singapore Institutes of Higher Learning – beacons of excellence that envy the world”.
He added: “I want to see a Russell Group of world-class technical colleges, each with their specialisms, collaborating to drive up standards and generate world-leading research and development.”
Mr Sunak also pledged to “go further” than the government’s current plans to raise the proportion of young people entering higher education from disadvantaged backgrounds to 35 per cent by 2030.
He said he wanted to see all universities “meeting or exceeding” that target and would set a new ambition for 50 per cent of students from disadvantaged backgrounds to go on to university by 2025.
In addition, Mr Sunak said he would establish a “new target” for 75 per cent of young people to achieve grade 5 or above in GCSE English and maths by 2024.
He added: “It is not right that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to go to university and more likely to earn less over their lifetimes.
“These plans represent a significant stride towards parity of esteem between vocational and academic education, and will help address the historical injustices faced by too many young people.”
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