Protect Applied General Qualifications


Protect Applied General Qualifications


The government has set out a clear vision of post-16 education where A levels and T levels are the qualifications of choice for 16 to 18 year olds at Level 3. However, we believe that the newly-reformed AGQs (BTECs being the best known brand) also have a vital role to play in the future qualifications landscape. The government is currently consulting on the future of these qualifications; our response provides more information on our position. Their extreme proposals would de-fund most AGQs by 2024, on the basis that there should be no overlap between A levels, T levels, and AGQs. 



We have seven key messages:

  1. Many students will be better served studying an AGQ rather than an A level or T  level

  2. The government’s definition of ‘overlap’ is narrow and unsophisticated

  3. The government has over-stated the degree of ‘confusion’ within the current qualifications landscape

  4. The government has over-estimated the role that T levels can realistically play in the future qualifications landscape, and the speed at which they can be introduced

  5. There is a range of practical barriers that will limit the uptake of T levels

  6. Moving to a binary model of A levels and T levels will disadvantage many students

  7. Removing AGQs will hamper social mobility

We are urging the government to guarantee that AGQs (in their new, more rigorous format) continue to be available to students alongside A levels and T levels in the future. Schools and colleges are extremely concerned that years of work developing and refining progression pathways based around AGQs could be undone through a top-down rationalisation of qualifications, and AGQs are highly valued by students and employers – removing them to increase the take up of T levels would be disastrous for social mobility and economic productivity. #ProtectAGQs


Get involved

We need the support of school and college leaders, governors, students, parents, teachers and support staff to make the campaign a success.  There are lots of ways to get involved, for example:

  • Write to your local MP to secure their support for the campaign (a full list of MPs is here)
  • Invite local MPs to your school or college
  • School and college leaders can write to parents to secure their support for the campaign 
  • Tweet support using the campaign infographics and hashtag #protectAGQs

More information can be found in the Resources section. A template letter to MPs for all four of our campaigns can be found here – please feel free to adapt the text and add specific examples from your own college or school.


Success stories

Set out below are just a few case studies of students that have benefitted from pursuing Applied General Qualifications. We will update these case studies on a regular basis.

Elda's story

Elda arrived in the UK from Portugal aged 16 able to speak only a little English. She had to work part-time to support herself and was working nights as an office cleaner in Oxford Circus until 7am then traveling to college by bus, a journey of an hour. Elda would not have been able to combine a T level programme with part-time work. She needed the time at college to build her knowledge, confidence and skills.    

Elda studied at Leyton Sixth Form College to improve her language skills and to achieve BTEC qualifications in travel and tourism. From the beginning, she was committed to studying and learning and proactive in finding ways to develop practical skills from work experience and part-time work within the hospitality industry.

Elda’s special skill is her ability to deliver outstanding customer service, a vital skill in hospitality and tourism. She has received recognition and praise from all the organisations she has worked for including the Kickstart Alumni recognition award from Springboard the hospitality charity in 2017 for her efforts in travel, tourism and hospitality. 

Working at a hotel has provided her the opportunity to develop leadership skills and extend her management skills. During work experience in a travel agency Elda exceeded expectations by taking on additional tasks and completing them to a very high standard, she has since been offered full-time employment with a training contract there. 

Elda is now at The Edge Hotel School, University of Essex approaching the end of a two-year degree in Events Management to further her skills and experience for a future career.

Elda hotelEldaElda british airways

Rhama’s story

RahmaRahma moved from a BTEC Business course when she realised that her true passion lay within Health and Social Care. Unfortunately, in her first year, Rahma had to undertake serious back surgery which meant that she did not attend college for 5 months. This also had a knock-on effect in terms of her resitting her GCSE Maths. Due to the flexibility of the BTEC course, Rahma was able to stay up to date with her coursework and devised a distant learning plan to ensure that she did not have to re-sit the year. Studying a BTEC gave her the opportunity to use different methods of assessment and gain the required vocational placement experience. Rahma went on to the 2nd year and achieved D*D*D*, she is now studying Child Nursing at City University.

Joanna’s story

JoannaJoanna started college with very low prior attainment and without GCSE Maths or English. Coupled with this, she also had to work part-time in a job unrelated to HSC due to financial difficulty.  She also completed a BSL course. Joanna worked really hard to juggle all aspects of the course and stated that without Applied Generals, she wouldn’t have fallen in love with the concepts of Psychology and Criminology and the social care aspect of the course. She also improved her English language skills and was given the opportunity to complete the QMUL award where she achieved a Platinum award. Joanna achieved D*D*D* and is now studying Criminology and Psychology at City University.


Levina’s story

LevinaLevina was attracted to the BTEC in Health and Social Care because she found the demands of an A-level course too much but wanted the mix of academic and vocational experience coupled with her part-time job in retail that she could not afford to give up. Levina didn’t want to do an Early Years course as she wanted her route into studying Education to be more diverse and found Health and Social Care suited her because it combined social care elements as well as the Sociology and Psychology units. Levina achieved D*D*D* and is now studying Education, Culture and Society at Goldsmiths.



Priya’s story

Priya studied double fashion and media, this covered promotional advertising, fashion, photography and garment construction. Due to Priya’s drive and skills, she managed to gain work experience with ASOS through the ‘worky’ website which usually targets graduates. The AGQ course gave Priya rounded skills to embark on the work experience and she went on to study at the University of the Arts London. There is no T Level available that would have been able to incorporate the range of skills developed through her AGQ which led to Priya’s success.

Ryan’s story

Due to Ryan’s responsibilities at home, having to care for older and younger family members, he had issues with attendance throughout his two years on the Applied Science course.  The structure of his AGQ course enabled Ryan to complete his coursework at times that were convenient for him, in order to achieve a D*D*D* grade.  The flexibility of the course was instrumental for Ryan and he would not have achieved his Level 3 Qualification on a T Level or A Level programme. Ryan has now received an offer to study Biological and Medical Sciences at the University of Liverpool after his gap year.

Amena’s story

Amena started the Applied Science course with one of her GCSE Science grades below a C.  Despite this starting point, the structure of the AGQ course along with her excellent work ethic and determination enabled her to achieve a D*D*D* grade at the end of two years and she has now progressed to study Pharmacy at the University of Lincoln.

Stephanie's story

Stephanie (current Y2 double applied science + Criminology) has a part-time job and is a young carer. She was able to secure work experience at Eurofins, a global biotechnology company, but only after she turned 18 as she couldn't go in the labs as an under 18 year old.

Following her work placement, Stephanie has secured a job after she leaves college with Eurofins.

Craig's story

Craig (current Y2, double applied science + A level Maths mixed programme) - is a young carer and wouldn't be able to commit the time needed to T level work and would be unable to do A level maths with the T-level

Craig is on track for D*D* grade and will progress to HE



SFCA response to DfE level 3 qualification review phase 2 January 2021Five reasons why I choose BTEC - Peter JonesSFCA response to DfE level 3 qualification review June 2019Six Dimensions Report: Saving General AppliedSFCA/ASCL joint statement on Applied General QualificationsTes Article: Why the battle to save BTECs must be won, James KewinFE Week Opinion Artice: Making T-levels and A-levels the only options of choice – really?, Bill Watkin


Campaign in the news

October 2020

Qualifications reform: Government announces next steps, Tes

DfE consults on scrapping quals competing with T Levels by 2023, FE Week

February 2020

Williamson announces plan to scrap 5,000 qualifications – but will anybody notice?, FE Week

Revealed: The 5,000 qualifications facing the axe, Tes

December 2019

What does FE really want from politicians? Certainty, Tes

The 8 concerns researchers found at approved T-level providers, FE Week

November 2019

Protect BTECs and boost sixth-form funding say colleges, TES

Funding ban for new level 3 and below qualifications, FE Week

October 2019

FAB chair to make 5 wishes to education secretary, FE Week

August 2019

BTECs: Entries rise despite doubts over future, TES

July 2019

Funding axed for more than 160 level 3 qualifications, TES

DfE confirms popular BTECs amongst qualifications facing funding axe, FE Week

June 2019

Ofqual: Removing access to BTECs risks creating ‘barrier’ to student progress, FE Week

Ofqual: Scrapping BTECs could create 'barrier', TES

May 2019

Schools failing to promote vocational qualifications face government crackdown, Independent

March 2019

Scrapping popular qualifications would be ‘reckless’, EdExec

Government consults on plans to withdraw funding for applied generals including BTECs, FE Week

Government consults on plans to withdraw funding for BTECs, Schools Week

DfE launches crackdown on post-16 courses, TES

‘Don’t kill off BTECs just to bolster T levels’, TES

February 2019

The future of applied generals hangs in the balance, TES


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