The University of Wolverhampton has secured funding to offer a new form of learning linked to the government’s Skills White Paper and the Lifelong Learning Entitlement - part of a major new national initiative to train, retrain and upskill the UK workforce.

The £2 million funding has been awarded by the Office for Students (OfS) to 22 universities to pilot a trial offering short courses in higher education which are designed to help students develop skills needed by employers.

The OfS is the independent regulator for higher education in England and aims to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.

The OfS worked collaboratively with the Department for Education on the programme, launching a challenge competition in August 2021 seeking bids from universities, colleges and other higher education providers who wished to trial the courses.

The University has been successful in securing the funding because of its track record in vocational and technical education, its expertise in lifelong learning and its collaborative working and partnerships with key employers and strategic professional bodies.

The short courses will be developed by the end of March and rolled out in September 2022 using flexible models of delivery, focused on people who want to train, retrain to enter these professions or upskill to ensure that they can progress in their existing employments.

Local partner organisations include Bromford (Housing Association), Spotless AI Ltd, Kinetic 6 Ltd, C4i Systems, City of Wolverhampton Council (Digital & Social work departments), Purple Frog and Wolverhampton Homes.

Courses ranging from Level 4 through to Level 6 will include Legal and Regulatory Frameworks in Housing, Working Smarter and Greener, Cybersecurity, Architecture and Operations, Ethical Hacking, Internet of Things and Network Security.

Professor Julia Clarke, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said: “We’re delighted to have been selected to be part of this exciting national trial to create a new form of learning which will see the University at the forefront of an innovative new model of higher education to be rolled out from 2025.

“We will be working with key employers and public sector organisations to develop 6 short courses and have selected housing and social care and digital (cyber and digital infrastructure) as the core development stands for our work.

“These sectors link to evidence of both changing demands locally and regionally and the skills needs in these sectors.”

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of the OfS, said: “I am pleased to announce the successful bidders for these important courses. The courses cover a range of subjects at universities and colleges from all parts of the country. They will help people – including those who might already have significant work experience – learn new skills and retrain for a career change. This type of flexibility is important and will help employers fill skills gaps which are essential for their businesses and support future economic growth. At the same time students will be able to benefit from higher education for short periods of time, which will enable them to further their careers, as well as giving them the opportunity to go on and gain a full degree.”

The courses form part of a pathway towards the delivery of the Lifelong Loan Entitlement (LLE), with pilot short courses to run from the 2022-23 academic year. Learning from the programme will help inform future LLE policy development.