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Higher Education for Further Education

The Open University is pleased to be working with the Department for Education and the Office for Students in England on an initiative funded by the DfE and OfS until July 2025. The aim of this project is to increase the availability of targeted HE programmes at levels 4 and 5. These will deliver skills local employers need and that offer people of all ages the opportunity to train and secure high-quality employment in and around their community. This is particularly focussed on Further Education colleges looking to expand advanced technical courses that they offer in educational ‘cold spots’.

Following the DfE’s announcement in May 2022, The Open University has been involved with this initiative through the Validation Partnerships (OUVP) team.

The Open University began working with nine colleges on either collaborative delivery or validation models, to assist colleges to understanding the requirements to develop or increase the number of HE options available to students through these delivery models. 

The final seven colleges are the biggest cohort yet for the OU national validation programme which is backed by £10m of UK Government funding.

The list of the seven, and the courses being offered are included here:

College Courses
Hopwood Hall College Courses offered under a validation arrangement:
  • FD Health and Social Care
Kingston Maurward College Courses offered under a validation arrangement:
  • Animal Behaviour, Welfare and Conservation
Lakes College Courses offered under a validation arrangement:
Strode College Courses offered under a validation arrangement
  • TBC
Tameside College Courses offered under a validation arrangement
  • TBC
Yeovil College Courses offered under a validation arrangement:
College of West Anglia Studying under a Collaborative Provision Arrangement, students will follow a programme of study made up of Open University modules that have been carefully selected by The Open University and CWA. Students will study through a combination of The Open University’s flexible distance learning model and face-to-face support at CWA. Successful completion of the programme of study will lead to the award of an Open University undergraduate qualification.

Courses offered under a Collaborative Provision Arrangement:

Delivering high-quality and tailored technical training that supports more people into work, will give us the skilled workforce needed for local employers and the economy to thrive. The Open University is one of the great educational institutions that is working to do just this, unlocking the potential of all people no matter where they are in life, whilst improving people’s social mobility.  

That’s why we are continuing to back them to help bridge the gap in higher technical education across the country. Through delivering more higher education in further education settings, we are extending the ladder of opportunity to people wherever they live.

Robert Halfon
Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education


Advanced skills training is vital to create thriving local economies, attracting new businesses, and helping others grow. Funding from the UK Government has enabled the OU to work with further education colleges to develop their technical higher education offering in their local communities. We are delighted to welcome the new colleges into the fold.

Professor Tim Blackman
Vice-Chancellor of The Open University


This expansion of technical skills training will help increase diversity and choice within higher education, providing students with greater access to courses so they can advance in their careers. It is genuinely heartening to see such a clear example of a university and colleges working together, supported by the OfS, to take responsibility for addressing gaps in technical education, and support graduates to contribute to local and regional economies across England.

John Blake
Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students (OfS)


Since 2022, Senior Partnership and Partnership Managers have taken a long journey with colleges to progress to being able to market their validated HE courses. Some colleges have had to withdraw after initial undertakings, often due to the pressure of resource commitment needed to successfully launch and manage the courses, which emphasises the rigour and challenge of providing HE through colleges whose main operation is Further Education for 16–19-year-olds.

Many lessons on approach, support and suitability have been taken from the experience. Plans to understand how The Open University might build on the work done, to continue once funding ceases; how to develop on the learnings and build an offering are now being considered.

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