With the referendum now called, the respective stay and leave camps are well underway in campaigning for our votes come decision day. But, do we really know what impact a Brexit may have on the world of skills and employability, and is staying in the EU any better?

If we stay, in some respects it will be business as usual. The EU has a long tradition of providing programmes aimed to boost employability and skills through education and training. Currently this includes Erasmus+, which will provide opportunities for 4 million Europeans to study, train, and gain work experience abroad up to 2020. And, of course, there is ESF provision, supporting area based initiatives co-financed by DWP, the SFA and Big Lottery. Collectively this makes up an important component of the current market, especially at a time when other funding streams are being cut. If we left the EU, the Government may of course reallocate some of its wider legacy EU spend into new, comparable programmes, which may even be less prescriptive and bureaucratic to manage and deliver than their EU equivalents. There is, however, no guarantee of this.

The rules around eligibility for overseas students taking part in FE provision are already complex. EU students (non UK nationals) can currently access a range of support, depending on the period for which they have been settled in the UK. In contrast, non-EU overseas students represented around £52m in tuition fees to the FE sector in England in 2011/12. EU students also currently have more flexibilities in combining paid work with study to their non-EU counterparts. Will the UK maintain the same principles post a possible Brexit, or will the lure of leveraging extra tuition fees from all overseas students, EU or otherwise, prove to be too great? What though, if a Brexit contributes to a dropping off in overseas student numbers, with study in other countries becoming more attractive? What too will be the expectation upon the FE sector in acting as a safeguard against inward EU migration through the post-16 back door?

Brexit would have a direct bearing on welfare spend. The Government has claimed that 40% of recent EEA migrants are in households supported by the welfare system, accounting for 10% of the total welfare bill. On average, families with a recent EEA migrant claim almost £6,000 per year in tax credits, and of these, around 8,000 families receive more than £10,000 pounds. Under a Brexit, the Government would have the option of culling some or potentially all of this spend, and re-directing it elsewhere. Could, however, that result in welfare prejudice against settled EU families?

Post Brexit, the UK would no longer be obligated to the EU's Working Time Regulations or Agency Workers Regulations. On one hand, this could result in legislation being repealed, and a dilution of worker rights in favour of a more pro-business labour market. On the other, the EU may indirectly impose comparable regulations on the UK, as a condition of any resultant trade deals which support continued favourable trade with EU partners. The result, a probable score draw.

Freedom of labour market movement would also be a consideration. In recent years, pocketed towns like Boston in Lincolnshire and Shirebrook in Derbyshire have seen their populations swell through inward EU migration. Local services, including the capacity of education institutions, have had to be realigned to meet the need. Communities like these face uncertain futures, whichever way the referendum plays; local services may be further stretched beyond capacity if we stay in, or local economies may risk a devastating collapse if we pull out. Again, there are no obvious winners here.

So, in summary, there is a lot to debate and consider, and on balance, at least at this point, there doesn't appear to be a sure fired case either way. As with all referendums, the country will inevitably make its own mind up. We might not be able to predict our future in Europe but, one way or the other, we will definitely have one!

Jim Carley is managing director of Carley Consult, a specialist business development agency supporting the skills and employability sectors

You may also be interested in these articles:

End to end learner journeys – from initial to end-point assessments - #FutureOfAssessment Episode 4

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page