Press release

MillionPlus comment on Education Secretary’s ‘Forgotten 50%’ speech

09 Jul 2020

MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities, has today (9 July) commented on the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s ‘Forgotten 50%’ speech.

Dr Greg Walker, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, said:

“Modern universities have close partnerships with colleges and will support moves to boost opportunities for those seeking to study in FE, including for the new T Levels. The Secretary of State’s speech contains aspirations for the UK to be the best in the world for higher technical education, a goal MillionPlus strongly supports. Modern universities themselves are some of the highest quality providers of higher technical education – they partner closely with employers to ensure that our programmes are industry-relevant and produce qualified people with the skills and knowledge needed in the workplace. These universities are eager to provide ever more programmes for students opting for this type of study. MillionPlus has been working constructively on higher technical education proposals with government officials over the past two years.

“Some of the rhetoric in the speech misses the mark as it appears to see HE and FE as alternatives, which they are clearly not. Some of the higher technical provision positively highlighted in the Secretary of State’s speech today refers as much to that provided by modern universities as those in colleges. The returns to a degree are generally still strong, as the government’s own data confirms, with women on average earning an extra £100,000, and men £130,000, over their lives after fee loan repayments are deducted. For many sub-degree qualifications the returns are not as good.

“Individuals considering raising their skills should have the right careers support and information to make the right choice for them. But picking and choosing quite varied programmes to compare for employment outcomes, when they are so radically different, is not a fair comparison to make. We look forward to continuing work with the government on their proposals which we hope will be unveiled soon.”


Notes to editors

  1. For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact Dan Blows on 020 3927 2916 or email
  2. MillionPlus is the Association for Modern Universities in the UK, and the voice of 21st century higher education. We champion, promote and raise awareness of the essential role and impact of modern universities in the UK’s world-leading higher education sector. More information can be found at
  3. Levelling up: investing in higher technical education at universities in England by MillionPlus is available here
  4. Forgotten Learners: building a system that works for mature students by MillionPlus is available here
  5. The impact of undergraduate degrees on lifetime earnings by the Institute for Fiscal Studies is available here
  6. What are modern universities? Modern universities are long established centres of higher education in their communities with roots that stretch back decades, if not centuries. Many gained university title following legislation agreed by parliament in 1992. They make up almost half of the UK university sector with over a million students studying at modern universities every year.
  7. Modern universities: facts and stats