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Article

Madeleine King, Melinda Waters, John Widdowson and Arti Saraswat

The purpose of this paper is to report the findings of a joint study carried out with groups of colleges in England and technical and further education (TAFE) institutes in

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report the findings of a joint study carried out with groups of colleges in England and technical and further education (TAFE) institutes in Australia. It looks at the factors which promote the delivery of higher technical skills and the infrastructure arrangements that are needed for success. It relates these to the debate concerning the promotion of higher and degree apprenticeships (HAs and DAs) in England.

Design/methodology/approach

The report is derived from a series of interviews with college and TAFE staff. A policy comparison is also included to provide context.

Findings

The outcome of the study suggests that similar factors affect the decision to offer, pursue and contribute to the development of higher technical skills in both countries. HAs and DAs are an English construct and the experience of colleges involved in HAs adds a valuable contribution to discussions surrounding the marketing and delivery of DAs. The Australian decision not to pursue either structure encourages reflection on what it is that governments are trying to achieve and what lessons can be learned from their approach.

Research limitations/implications

The study was carried out within the non-university sector in both countries. Colleges and TAFE institutes are more likely to offer practice-based higher education (HE), have teaching staff with industry backgrounds and have long-established engagement with employers that may be found within universities. The paper was therefore written from a distinctive environment. However, it is likely that the issues identified apply to universities and private providers of HE as much as to colleges and TAFEs.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that developing HAs or DAs should not be seen merely as just another marketing opportunity. The hybrid nature of both structures requires a holistic approach to delivery on the part of institutional leaders that leads to significant overhaul of internal communications networks, quality assurance schemes and staff development.

Originality/value

The paper is one of relatively few published documents which focus on the role of dual sector colleges and TAFE institutes in the delivery of HE and higher technical skills. It offers insight into how government pressure for a particular style of HE, deemed necessary for the national economic interest of both countries, can be made into a reality. By using the expertise that already exists within the college and TAFE sectors and their established links with employers, more effective changes can be made at a faster pace.

Details

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, vol. 6 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-3896

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Article

Madeleine King, Arti Saraswat and John Widdowson

The purpose of this paper is to report research carried out by the Mixed Economy Group of colleges into the student experience of part time (PT) higher education (HE

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to report research carried out by the Mixed Economy Group of colleges into the student experience of part time (PT) higher education (HE) delivered in English further education (FE) colleges.

Design/methodology/approach

An online survey was completed by 352 PT students. Their responses, including free comments, formed the basis of the report. The authors provide a context for the work by referring to research carried out by other national agencies.

Findings

The research illustrates the strengths of college-based HE, which largely derives from delivery by staff who are qualified teachers and, often, professionally active in their field of expertise. Whilst valuing this, students also seek recognition of the demands of work and family on their study time, as well as an identity as HE students within the greater FE environment.

Social implications

PT HE can drive regional economic growth. By addressing the issues raised by students in the research, local colleges, partner universities, employers and national government can re-build local skill bases. Promoting PT HE develops a vocational ladder to HE, thus widening participation.

Originality/value

Relatively little publically available research exists into the experiences of students pursuing PT HE in colleges. This primary research begins an evidence-based debate about how colleges can improve their offer but also reminds Government of the need to give equal weight to the needs of PT students in future changes to the delivery of HE.

Details

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, vol. 5 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-3896

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Article

Jennifer Rowley

Foundation degrees, the new proposal for sub‐degree vocational education in the UK, are characterised by innovation both in their design (curriculum, teaching, learning…

Abstract

Purpose

Foundation degrees, the new proposal for sub‐degree vocational education in the UK, are characterised by innovation both in their design (curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment) and in the marketplace for which they are designed. This article argues that the development and delivery of foundation degrees carry a high level of risk, and encourages reflection on the nature and impact of those risks.

Design/methodology/approach

The article discusses the sources of the risks associated with the development of foundation degrees, as a platform for the development of strategies for the management of risk, and positive quality management. The discussion is developed under the following headings: working in partnership, validation processes, curriculum and learning issues, marketplace and admission issues, staffing and organisational issues, and the student experience.

Findings

There are a number of sources of support and advice to assist in mitigation of the risks, but ultimately the responsibility for the management of the risks rests with employers, educational institutions, their staff and students.

Originality/value

The article surfaces a range of issues relating to risks and their management in the context of foundation degrees. It should inform curriculum development, and the development of quality management systems for the management of foundation degrees.

Details

Quality Assurance in Education, vol. 13 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0968-4883

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Article

Arti Saraswat

This paper is drawn from a doctoral study that was funded as part of Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Leadership, Governance and Management project. The…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper is drawn from a doctoral study that was funded as part of Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Leadership, Governance and Management project. The college referred to as City College in this paper, was an higher education (HE) College and was formally part of the HE Sector. The college was one of the institutions that was studied as part of the research that aimed to identify issues in managing across the interface of further education (FE) and HE. Multiple sources of evidence, such as, interviews with staff and managers, documents such as, institutional strategic plan, reports on quality assessment and monitoring, and other institutional data have informed the findings of this paper. The college had roots in FE and had gradually evolved to become an HE institution. The institutional background in FE had vitally shaped the perceptions of the institutional managers on combining FE and HE within an institutional framework. Two sets of beliefs had emerged at the college, one that related to retaining the FE ethos of the college and another that supported a progressive diffusion of aspects of HE culture within the college. The paper aims to discuss these issues.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper presents a case study of an English dual sector college that delivered substantial levels of FE and HE.

Findings

The paper presents the challenges associated with managing the college’s culture and identity as it continued to consolidate its position as an HE institution while remaining optimistic that it was not “drifting away” from its FE roots. The teachers and managers at the college had prior experiences of FE and their approach to work was influenced by FE practices. College was described to be “non-academic” and arguments were made to facilitate more “university-like” practices and arrangements for HE lecturers to help develop research and scholarly activity at the college.

Practical implications

The paper also highlights issues and considerations related to enhancing internal progression of students from FE to HE, pressures for separate and distinctive buildings and spaces for HE to help raise student aspirations, and the perceptions of internal and external stakeholders that related to a “confused” institutional identity of the college. Whilst the college had aimed to maintain a strong presence in the FE markets, it had simultaneously “concealed” its FE identity in order to appeal more strongly to the HE students.

Originality/value

In presenting the analysis of evolution of the college from an FEC to an HEI, this paper will be of interest to institutions that are considering or aspiring to strengthen their positioning as HE providers without compromising on their identity as FE colleges.

Details

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, vol. 5 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-3896

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Book part

Sarah Cooper and Sara Pearman

This chapter explores the numerous considerations that an external examiner (EE) of an undergraduate degree within a further-education (FE) college must be mindful. There…

Abstract

This chapter explores the numerous considerations that an external examiner (EE) of an undergraduate degree within a further-education (FE) college must be mindful. There may be the perception that our academic experience of lecturing within a university equips us with the knowledge to collaborate with colleagues within an FE institution. However, this is valid only to a certain point. There is a spectrum of contrasts between the higher education (HE) and FE environments that are reflected within the comparisons that this chapter highlights between the teaching-and-learning experiences. If we think back to the original purpose of an EE (where Oxford scholars were invited by Durham University to provide external guidance in the nineteenth century), we can appreciate the key task of an EE and its aim: to assess the comparability of student achievement. The landscape of HE has changed considerably since then, and now undulates with numerous opportunities for learners to gain a HE qualification. It is this difficulty in assessing comparability that an EE of a HE course within an FE environment must be willing to acknowledge. The fact that the student-and-learning experience varies wildly in HE and FE muddies the waters for the EE: how can comparableness be assessed?

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Article

Geoffrey Elliott and Jon Gamble

A key objective for many higher education (HE) institutions is the development and enhancement of partnerships with sub‐regional organisations. Much of this activity takes…

Abstract

A key objective for many higher education (HE) institutions is the development and enhancement of partnerships with sub‐regional organisations. Much of this activity takes the form of collaborative provision of intermediate level HE programmes delivered in partnership with local further education (FE) colleges. The research reported in this article, carried out in a HE institution with a substantial level of partnership programmes, was designed to enhance the quality of collaborative provision by assessing the information needs of curriculum leaders and managers of joint provision, and proposing strategies for the enhancement of information systems. The research design included a survey of the needs of HE course managers, mapping existing information sources and strategies, identifying gaps in provision, proposing strategies that would improve communication and information at all levels, and identifying implications for the HE sector in general regarding transferability of outcomes. Concludes that culture difference between HE and FE can be a strength of collaborative provision, and that information and communication technology has potential in supporting such provision through improved management of inter‐institutional information flows, and employing standardised and quality assured assessment practices.

Details

Quality Assurance in Education, vol. 9 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0968-4883

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Article

Clare Elizabeth Gartland and Christine Smith

Vocational courses in England support the progression to higher education (HE) of large numbers of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet there is little…

Abstract

Purpose

Vocational courses in England support the progression to higher education (HE) of large numbers of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, yet there is little research exploring the college experiences of these young people prior to entering university. The purpose of this paper is to consider the experiences of young people on Level 3 Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) vocational courses in their progression to HE from differently positioned post-16 colleges in England.

Design/methodology/approach

A qualitative study was undertaken into the experiences of students on BTEC courses in four subject clusters (science, technology, engineering and maths, arts and humanities, social sciences and health) at both a Further Education College and a Sixth Form College in an area of multiple deprivation and low HE participation. Young people’s experiences of BTEC courses and the support and guidance they receive are explored through the conceptual lens of “possible selves” and using Bourdieu’s ideas of capital, habitus and field.

Findings

Pedagogies and practices on BTEC courses are found to support the development of relevant social and cultural capital and help young people formulate well-articulated “possible selves” as university students, even amongst students who previously had not considered university as an option. The findings illustrate how differently positioned colleges support students’ progression and identify challenges presented by an increasingly stratified and marketised system.

Originality/value

The study highlights the transformative potential of BTEC courses and their role in supporting progression to HE amongst young people from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. The current emphasis on standardisation and rigour as mechanisms to better equip students for HE neglects the unique contribution BTEC pedagogies and practices make to encouraging HE participation. A Bourdieusian and “possible selves” theoretical framework has provided new insights into these valuable learning processes.

Details

Education + Training, vol. 60 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0040-0912

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Article

Roger Bennett

A total of 284 first‐year undergraduate business studies students in a post‐1992 university in Greater London completed a questionnaire regarding their motives for…

Abstract

A total of 284 first‐year undergraduate business studies students in a post‐1992 university in Greater London completed a questionnaire regarding their motives for deciding to participate in higher education. The questionnaire also queried whether the decision to enrol had been “marginal”, or was something about which they had never had any doubts or reservations. An amended version of the questionnaire was filled in by 139 second‐year BTEC and GNVQ students in two further education colleges in the catchment area of the university hosting the main investigation. This modified questionnaire asked the respondents whether they did or did not intend going to university, and examined their motives for wanting or not wanting to become undergraduates. It emerged that “goal orientation”, “learning orientation”, financial pressures and parental encouragement to enter university represented major motivational factors among both groups of students. Certain personality traits that previous research has found to influence HE enrolment decisions did not appear to explain the behaviour of the undergraduates; although academic self‐concept and self‐esteem did affect the decisions of the FE college students in the anticipated manner. In the case of the university students, self‐esteem and academic self‐concept significantly moderated the impact of a “financial pressure” variable on the decision to go to university. Other findings were generally in accord with the conclusions of prior empirical literature in the field.

Details

International Journal of Educational Management, vol. 18 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0951-354X

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Article

Arti Saraswat

The UK government is actively promoting higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships and this agenda has been gaining momentum amongst the various providers of…

Abstract

Purpose

The UK government is actively promoting higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships and this agenda has been gaining momentum amongst the various providers of apprenticeships. The purpose of this paper is to draw on an exploratory study on English further education (FE) colleges and highlight some of the key drivers of delivery, and possible challenges that can be faced by the providers in any expansion of this provision. Staff perceptions on the new apprenticeship standards are also presented in the paper.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper draws on a qualitative exploratory study with ten FE colleges in England. As part of the study, 19 in-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with college staff and managers.

Findings

Higher apprenticeships have the potential to offer work-focussed alternatives to the conventional full-time degree models of higher education, however, the paper sheds light on a number of factors can limit the uptake of higher and degree apprenticeships.

Practical implications

The paper presents some practical challenges in developing higher apprenticeships and outlines some successful instances of higher apprenticeships which will be useful for those involved in the design and delivery of apprenticeships at FE colleges as well as at other providers.

Originality/value

This paper draws on research with FE colleges and will be of particular significance to FE colleges and universities that may consider delivering higher apprenticeships. The paper presents insights into institutional experiences and decision-making associated with higher and degree apprenticeships and, in doing so, the paper offers valuable contributions to the body of knowledge in this under-researched area.

Details

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, vol. 6 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2042-3896

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Article

Eddie Rocks and Peter Lavender

The purpose of this paper is to understand the experiences of students undertaking higher education in a further education setting in the UK. Since the 1960s, there has…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to understand the experiences of students undertaking higher education in a further education setting in the UK. Since the 1960s, there has been a policy commitment in the UK to widen participation in education to social groups previously under-represented (Thompson, 2000; Burke, 2012). The consequence is a discourse in which it is argued that higher education has been “dumbed down” to include non-traditional students frequently ill-prepared for academic challenges (Haggis, 2006). This research explored an alternative discourse, proposing that education should be a catalyst for significant social, emotional and intellectual growth, culminating in a transformative experience (Mezirow, 1978a, 1991; Cranton, 2006).

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 12 non-traditional graduates from a full-time BA programme at a Scottish College of Further and Higher Education were interviewed to determine if graduates experienced significant social, emotional and intellectual growth as a result of participation; what teaching and learning settings make this possible; can it be proposed that graduates can be transformed by the experience of higher education in further education?

Findings

The findings of the research indicate that the participants all experienced some significant shift in attributes such as confidence, independence and willingness to try new things. How they experience, conceptualise and participate in their social worlds has become more discriminating. The authors conclude by proposing that higher education in further education (HE in FE) can have the potential to provide transformative experiences for non-traditional students.

Research limitations/implications

The implications of this study lie as much in the nature of the transformative learning experience as in the structures in which education is provided. Additionally, it is proposed that transformative teaching and learning theory may be as significant now as it ever was in understanding the changes which learners experience in higher education study. Limitations of the study include the small number of interviewees who were interviewed more than once in some depth, and the particular setting of one further education college. As in all such research generalisation might be difficult.

Practical implications

Practically, the research suggests that the authors can learn from how students like the ones featured in the transformation stories experience learning in HE in FE. Despite being seen as “non-traditional” students who return to education with weak learning histories and fragile learner identities, the research has shown that if a nurturing, student-centred approach is adopted by teaching staff, a significant shift in how students see themselves and their place in the world can be achieved. This has significant implications for teaching practice. The findings could be an inspiration and guiding principle for other HE in FE tutors and help them find commonalities in their own work.

Social implications

The authors argue that education should not be regarded only as an economic-driven activity insofar as most HE in FE programmes are vocational and are geared towards preparation for the workplace. The authors’ key proposition is that education can be a life changing experience that might be considered a transformation. The social implication is that participating in HE in FE could be a catalyst for the development of confident and engaged citizens, ready to make a real contribution to the social world beyond and out-with only the workplace. Within a Freirean framework, this might be transformative education’s most significant contribution to society.

Originality/value

Transformative learning theory research has mostly been undertaken in informal learning contexts and higher education institutions. There has also been research undertaken on diverse contexts not immediately related to education. In terms of empirical research, however, transformation learning theory in HE in FE is yet unexplored. Yet, it is an ideal learning site to promote transformation because of the relatively small, intimate milieu, typical of colleges. The originality lies in the paucity of other research focused on transformation in an FE context. The value lies in its showing that particular teaching approaches can transform students in this context.

Details

Education + Training, vol. 60 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0040-0912

Keywords

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