Higher education (HE) in further education (FE) is a growing area of importance, with level 5 technical education and degree-level apprenticeships presenting colleges with a chance to expand into the higher education market.
Delivering HE in FE is seen as a good opportunity for FE colleges yet for many, this two-tiered environment can present a difficult situation with challenging goals.
FE colleges cite a number of reasons why delivering HE in FE is not experiencing a significant uptake. For example:
With these challenges in mind, why would an FE college embark on a HE in FE programme? Particularly so when new apprenticeship levy opportunities are now available – a great chance to increase awareness of the college and grow revenue – and through following a familiar FE framework.
A recent report published by the Higher Education Commission, entitled ‘One size won’t fit all: The challenges facing the office for students’ reveals that HE in FE opens up HE education to those who want or need to access it in an untraditional way, limiting diversity and social mobility. Plus we know that HE in FE is a great way to create new or improved funding streams for colleges – not to mention addressing local skills gaps where colleges have a deep insight into employment challenges in their area.
If your college hasn’t already ventured into the HE in FE market, you will most likely have discussed it and it may even be on your horizon. If so, clear and useful questions to ask yourself before progressing include:
Clearly there is an appetite to deliver HE in the FE environment and many believe this is a good opportunity for colleges. Yet it must be realistically deliverable without falling short on staff and student expectations. Leaders within the sector advise that joined-up systems and processes and a collaborative – rather than competitive – approach is the answer to providing a positive experience. The outcome must be effective and seamless for all in order for the programme to succeed.
Thanks to Dan Shaffer, Andy Youell and Mark Breadner for their contribution to this topic during the Mixed Economy panel at the UNIT-e National Conference.