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Vocational progression to HE: Report

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New report highlights the growing trends in BTEC progression to HE

A new report by the Western Vocational Progression Consortium (WVPC) highlights the positive trends in  the progression of students with BTEC vocational qualifications into higher education. This is a statistical update of a study whose first results were presented in 2012. The main focus has been to present three-year trends of BTEC entry students and to explore the differences between vocational and traditional ‘academic’ higher education entrants. BTEC students form a small, yet increasing number, of undergraduate students with quite different characteristics, higher education experiences and outcomes when compared to an academic cohort. 

Key findings:

  • The number of ‘BTEC students’ studying in higher education has doubled between 2010/11 and 2012/13 to a population of 28,555. In the selective institutions the proportion of vocational students is still small, yet in the Million Plus institutions for every four graduating ‘traditional entry’ students there is a graduating ‘BTEC student’.
  • There has been a general upward trend in the proportion of students’ who entered higher education with a BTEC in combination with a ‘traditional entry’ qualification. This has increased from one in four ‘BTEC students’ in 2010/11 to one in five ‘BTEC students’ by 2012/3. 
  • ‘BTEC students’ were more likely to be from widening participation background. ‘BTEC students’ were significantly more likely to be from lower NS-SEC groups, groups 4 to 7 (35.8%) than ‘traditional entry’ students (25.4%) whilst nearly a fifth (18.5%) of ‘BTEC students’ come from neighbourhoods with the lowest university participation rate compared with less one in ten (9.7%) of ‘traditional entry’ students.
  • BTEC students from non-widening participation backgrounds were more likely to be found in higher status institutions. ‘BTEC students’ from higher socio‐economic groups (NS-SEC groups 1‐3) are more likely to have studied at a selecting HEI (42.9% Russell Group and 42.5% 1994 Group institutions) than a non-selecting institution (39.4% University Alliance and 36.0% Million Plus). However, whilst the proportion of BTEC students studying in selecting HE institutions has increased, BTEC students are more likely to be found in University Alliance and Million Plus institutions.
  • The relationship between entry profile and retention and success is complex. ‘BTEC students’ have higher withdrawal rates and slightly poorer degree classifications but three-year data highlights some positive trends. By 2012/13 there had been over a ten percentage point increase, to 67.9%, in ‘BTEC students’ successfully completed their course. Over the same period there had been a three percentage point increase, to 54.4%, in the proportion of ‘BTEC students’ achieving good honours degrees. This suggests that BTEC students are making better choices of study leading to a more positive student experience and success.
  • There has been a significant narrowing of the gap between the salaries of ‘BTEC students’ and ‘traditional entry’ students. In 2010/11 graduates who had entered HE with traditional A levels or Higher qualifications had earnings that were on average 11.5% or £2,034 more than graduates who had entered university with BTEC. By 2012/13 this gap had narrowed to 4.2% or in monetary terms £804. 
  • It is important to retain an understanding of the complex relationship between entry profile, retention and achievement and its reference to the local communities from which learners are drawn. Vocational entrants were more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and withdrawal and leaving rates are correlated with disadvantaged backgrounds for all entry pathways. 

Research: Vocational progression to selecting universites

Executive Summary: Vocational progression