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Applying the Robbins Principle to further education and apprenticeship

Britain does well at higher education, and badly for its non-graduates. The main problem is our failure to train more people when they are young. Shockingly, 30 per cent of 18 year olds are not in education or training - many more than in our competitor countries. Low skills for this group are a major cause of low national productivity and high wage inequality. Due to the shortage of skills, the rate of return to developing skills through further education and apprenticeship is high, but the facilities for skill development are far too thin on the ground.

Higher education has gone well because policy towards it has been guided by the Robbins Principle. This says that qualified people wishing to progress further should expect to find a place. But this principle has never been applied to the 'other 50 per cent' - those going down the vocational route. If we want better productivity and higher wages, it is time to apply the Robbins Principle to them also. Doing so would require major changes in further education, and the supply of apprenticeship places for young people.

Richard Layard, Sandra McNally and Guglielmo Ventura

24 October 2023

The Economy 2030 Inquiry

Applying the Robbins Principle to further education and apprenticeship

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This External publication is part of the centre's Community Wellbeing programme, Education and skills programme.