Student surge sparks funding reform call

England's education system urged to adapt to demand for tech skills

By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-06-06 09:34
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A student works in the Makerspace at the University of Manchester on May 17, 2024. The Makerspace is a facility that offers students the space and tools to create, manufacture, design, and collaborate. It also supports large-scale coding events focused on robotics and sustainability. PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A projected increase in the number of 16- to 18-year-olds in England is poised to drive a surge in school-leavers pursuing further and higher education by the end of the decade, coinciding with a pressing need for enhanced technical skills across the nation.

Leaders in the education sector have emphasized the necessity for increased government funding to accommodate this increase, particularly as the demand for proficiency in artificial intelligence, or AI, and excellence in other technical skills is growing.

A report published in April by the Association of Colleges, or AoC, which represents technical colleges and institutions that offer apprenticeships, made clear how the nation's need for technical skills is not being met, while business leaders have stressed the need to train up a cohort for the growing number of jobs in industries including AI and computing, engineering, and teaching and health.

To address this challenge, policymakers, educators, and industry leaders have been called upon to forge deeper partnerships and streamline efforts to meet the mounting demand.

Educational experts say that with increased funding from government and more coordination between the further education sector, which offers vocational, professional, and technical training to students post-16 and post-18, and the higher education sector, where undergraduates typically study for bachelor's degrees at universities, the rise in domestic student numbers in England can feed a workforce capable of driving economic growth and filling the skills demand.

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