Vocational Value: The role of further education colleges in higher education

Jun 20, 2011

There are many challenges facing the government and all providers of higher education and higher skills. This report looks at three problems, and argues that Further Education Colleges can play a strong role in responding to all three:

1) Higher education is not meeting the needs of employers: Higher education in further education is more vocationally focused and FECs are able to build on and exploit their strong relationships with local employers.

2) Not enough intermediate or ‘technician level’ skills: Higher education in further education provides for the delivery of vital intermediate and technical skills. Their distinctive offer is the delivery of so-called ‘short cycle’ higher education comprising Foundation Degrees, Higher National awards and professional qualifications – all below the level of the first degree and typically taking around two years to complete.

3) The costs of expansion: Short cycle higher education in further education is significantly cheaper than a full degree studied at university. As such, it provides an excellent opportunity to expand access to higher education and higher skills without incurring the costs attached to government loans of £9,000 a year for tuition fees.


Ralph Hartley

Ralph Hartley
Senior Research Fellow for Education, 2009-2011 Read Full Bio

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