2019 Review of the Value of Vocational Qualifications

Andrew Pember, Chris Bolton, David Sims, Suzanne Straw and Amanda Taylor

08 November 2019

Report is available on the Joint Council for Qualifications website

The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) commissioned NFER, with support from Carina Consulting, to carry out a small-scale rapid evidence assessment and literature review of the value of vocational qualifications offered in the UK. The review aimed to ascertain: how the value of vocational qualifications is defined; what the reported value is of vocational qualifications (e.g. benefits for the individual learner, business, and the economy); and whether there are any gaps in the research on the value of Level 3 vocational qualifications, and if so, what further information would be useful to have for policy and practice.

Key Findings

  • The benefits for learners are most clearly evidenced in the likelihood of securing employment, earnings-related returns, widening participation generally and through increased access / progression to higher education. 
  • The benefits for business are the skills learners bring and the development of workplace behaviours, with apprenticeships containing a vocational qualification being valued more highly than standalone qualifications, and vocational qualifications being widely used in the recruitment process at all levels.
  • The benefits to the economy of increasing the number of learners qualified at Level 3 include substantial returns to wages and tax revenues, and vocational qualifications also help to increase business productivity. 
  • The evidence-base could be strengthened by further quantitative research into the role of standalone vocational qualifications and their impact on social mobility, recruitment and employment at all levels and qualitative research into the potential impact of the new T Levels which will be introduced from autumn 2020.