IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


Government reform is the main issue for FE, not money, says IOE academic

4 November 2019

Martin Doel, Professor of Leadership in Further Education and Skills at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), spoke at the FAB 2019 conference about the long-term implications of government reform for further education (FE).

Professor Martin Doel

Professor Doel delivered a speech at the FAB conference, an annual meeting of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, arguing that funding is not the main issue facing FE in the long-term, but rather how the government’s reform programme will progress.

Since 2011, there has been a succession of government papers regarding FE: the Wolf Review, Richard Review, Productivity Plan, Sainsbury Review and Industrial Strategy. Yet policy makers have still not properly defined or explored the differences between technical and theoretical education, said Professor Doel.

There is an ingrained bias towards academic ways of learning, he continued, that is not compatible with practical and applied learning. Without a clear differentiation between the two, the current reform programme risks judging technical education by pre-existing academic standards that are not fit for purpose.

The reform programme must therefore resist what Professor Doel refers to as “the gravitational pull of the academic in this country”.

A number of questions were also posed to the audience: should providers be collaborating or competing? Should the focus be on local or national opportunities for learners? How do providers handle giving people a second chance at education while making themselves first choice for others? Is it about education for life or training for a job?

If these fundamental questions are not considered from the outset, he said, then it may feel as though “we take one step, then the next, then the next – then wonder, how did we end up here?” 

Professor Doel also sat on the judging panel for the FAB Awards, which celebrates best practice in the awarding and assessment industry. There were seven winners announced, including a provider of British Sign Language qualifications and an engineering awarding organisation.