The latest meeting of the MIAP (Managing Information Across Partners) HE Advisory Board took place on Wednesday. The programme was borne out of the now defunct Department for Education and Skills (DfES) and has the general aim of improving the information flow across the whole of the education sector. Significant progress has been made in implementing aspects of the programme in the schools and further education sectors but it has had something of a hiatus over the past nine months as the benefits to the higher education sector could not be easily identified. Given that there has been a large investment of funds in the programme, there has been high level encouragement to move the programme on. The implementation team were encouraged to establish a business case for adoption in the higher education sector. A high level case has been prepared but the outlined benefits are not proven and no costings have been included. Consequently a number of pilot programmes are being established to provide the evidence for a more complete business case.
There are potential benefits for learners. The personal learning record (PLR) offers the opportunity for learners to have details stored of all their qualifications in one place, populated by their learning providers, which could then be used in applications for employment or to further study. A pilot of the PLR suggests that most learners would use a report from the system instead of their certificates from awarding bodies and nearly 90% would use the report when applying for employment. Feedback from employers also seems positive but the proof will really only come when the system is used in anger. The data needs to be timely and accurate. There is concern over accuracy as data is not directly drawn from the awarding bodies and not all qualifications are achieved within a formal learning environment (and so are entered by the learner). The latter issue is harder to address and may require a mechanism to distinguish between validated and non-validated qualifications.
There remains much for the programme to do. Engagement varies across the UK; as a priority all of the devolved administrations need to commit to it although if it was adopted in England it could, in my view, still remain viable. The planned limited release of the PLR may mean that many of the teething problems have been identified before the HE sector comes on board. The pilots have to demonstrate that the benefits can be achieved and realise cost savings for all types of institution in the sector. The work outlined takes the programme to 2012; it is probably protected from any potential change in government as it is well established in the schools and FE sectors but there remain a number of challenges it needs to meet to become established in the HE sector.