What is meant by ‘knowledge’ in vocational education qualifications and who decides? These are significant questions in a context where ‘skill’ is the prevailing discourse. This paper reports on a research project, undertaken in 2010–2011, which investigated the role of national stakeholders in defining knowledge in vocational education qualifications at levels 2 and 3 in the English qualifications framework. The paper explores who the key constituencies were at this point in time, and how they conceptualised the purpose and content of vocational education qualifications. The study found a complex mix of stakeholders involved in design and regulation of qualifications, but it was difficult to discern who took responsibility for knowledge beyond qualification awarding bodies. While concern was expressed about the dominant role of employers, other constituencies such as higher education subject specialists and teachers were missing. There was a lack of consensus amongst stakeholders about the purposes of vocational education qualifications, and uncertainty about their role as preparation for both work and further study. The study indicates the complicated and unstable state of knowledge in vocational education qualifications. It is argued that knowledge needs to be considered in greater depth as part of qualification design, so that vocational qualifications genuinely enable progression, whether to employment or to higher levels of education.
- vocational education
- qualification design