IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


FE and Skills across the four countries of the UK

The four countries of the UK continue to share a broadly common economy and labour market, but are increasingly taking differing approaches to their policies for vocational education and training, further and higher education and skills development. There is no current research on cross-UK comparisons of FE and skills despite the major changes that are taking place in this area. This type of cross-national comparison is particularly important in the context of Brexit with the increased emphasis on developing high value-added enterprises and an appropriately educated and skilled UK workforce.

For this reason, Edge Foundation, City and Guilds and the DfE have generously agreed to fund the Centre for Post-14 Education and Work at IOE to organise a series of seminars that will address the project's key research question:

What can be learnt in terms of new knowledge and practical application from a comparison between FE and skills policy in the four countries of the UK?

The seminar series

The project will revolve around six thematic seminars, one in each of the four countries and a further two in London to begin and conclude the programme. Themes will include, for example, aims and principles for FE and skills policy; the role of employers in education and skills; the role and governance of FE colleges; policy levers (funding, inspection, performance tables); meeting employer and learners needs and demands; learning in the workplace; the role of localities and regions.

The seminar series will be organised and directed by Professors Ann Hodgson and Ken Spours from the IOE's Centre for Post-14 Education and Work, but will be jointly badged by IOE, Edge Foundation, City and Guilds and the Department for Education (DfE).

These organisations, together with three lead country experts from Scotland (Professor Jim Gallacher, Glasgow Caledonian University), Wales (Professor David James, University of Cardiff) and Northern Ireland (Dr Tracy Irwin, Ulster University), will agree on the invitation lists.

Participants will include:

  • policy makers (e.g. civil servants, civil society organisations, regulators, awarding bodies, local/regional authorities)
  • employers and employer organisations, particularly those operating UK-wide;
  • unions and professional associations;
  • researchers and academics;
  • education and training providers.

Each seminar will include papers from two academics, a policy-makers and a researcher and will be held in either a university specialising in technical education or a further education college. This will provide an opportunity for participation in the discussion by a wide range of stakeholders.

The papers and discussion will form the basis of a series of six short briefing papers, each of which will be produced shortly following the relevant seminar. These will be summarised within a final report to be written by 31 July 2018. Consideration would be given at this point as to whether there was material for a more substantial publication (e.g. special issue of a journal, book) and whether further research involving interviews should be carried out.