further education colleges

   Further education (FE) colleges are part of the postschool education sector, providing courses in general education and in technical and vocational education. They have a long tradition, developing from the nineteenth-century Mechanics Institute movement, night schools and technical colleges. Expansion occurred after 1945 when the mainly evening provision was extended to a range of daytime, fulltime and part-time courses. Many technical colleges were renamed FE colleges in the 1970s and 1980s to reflect a new breadth of academic, vocational and leisure provision. Some colleges styled themselves as community colleges to emphasize their concern with the particular social and economic needs of the neighbourhoods in which they were located. Under the provisions of the Further and Higher Education Act (1992) and the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act (1992), FE colleges in England, Wales and Scotland were removed from local education authorities and ‘incorporated’ as independent institutions, managed by boards representing local industry, the business community and staff. Similar arrangements for colleges in Northern Ireland were introduced in 1998. Three particular trends have resulted from these changes: first, commercial activity by colleges, in marketing their facilities and courses and competing aggressively for students; second, mergers between institutions; and, third, increased provision of Higher National Certificate and Diploma courses, previously available almost exclusively in the higher education sector.
   A feature of the FE expansion during the 1990s has been the recruitment of students in the over twenty-five age group (unemployed, seeking betterpaid or more satisfying work, or supported by employers). Access courses prepare mature students for entry to university-level education (see universities). FE colleges are also regarded by the UK government as crucial partners in the Training Targets scheme to improve the qualifications and skills of young people and workers by the year 2000. The qualifications offered by FE colleges include academic ‘A’ Levels (or Scottish ‘Highers’) and General National/ Scottish Vocational Qualifications (GNVQs /GSVQs), based on standards set by industry, with assessment in the workplace or in simulated workplace conditions. Current issues in the FE college sector include improving student guidance, counselling and childcare facilities, developing flexible study arrangements, opening up provision for older adults and those with special needs and making partnerships with universities so that college study can be credited towards a university degree.
   See also: adult education
   Further reading
    McGinty, J. and Fish, J. (1993) Further Education in the Market Place, London: Routledge (a review of developments post- 1992).
   GRAHAM CONNELLY

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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