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Impact of HE delivered by FE

HE delivered in FE colleges £4bn impact

New research commissioned by the Education and Training Foundation and published today provides concrete evidence of the impact and reach of the higher education delivered by FE Colleges.   The work was carried out by RCU and undertaken in consultation with the Association of Colleges, the Mixed Economy Group and the 157 Group, as well as a number of colleges.

Individual colleges received an individual, tailored report on their HE from the project some weeks ago.

Just under 10% of HE undergraduates study in FE Colleges.  The study shows that the lifetime financial benefit to HE students in FE Colleges in one year (Net Present Value) was £3.95 bn.  [1]

The full report can be downloaded here.

The Local Impact of College Based Higher Education (CHELIS) report demonstrates, in detail not previously available, how

  • College based HE broadens access to higher education, yet differs from the provision offered by HEIs, broadly as policy drivers intend
  • College based FE recruits from the local area and with a focus on applied and vocational subjects;
  • local recruitment positions Colleges to address local economic needs.

Sheila Kearney, Head of Research at ETF commented:

“The individually tailored college reports, and this national report, help us to evidence and quantify the impacts that college based HE has on inclusion, responsiveness to local employer needs, and local economic priorities.  Now that we have published the national picture, individual colleges will be able to compare it with their own data.  The analysis illustrates how successfully FE is responding to the Government’s expectations for college based HE. ”

Richard Boniface, MD of RCU Ltd, who undertook the analysis and reporting on behalf of ETF adds:

“We were very pleased to be commissioned to undertake this work by ETF and to work with them, their partner organisations and several colleges in undertaking the analysis and designing these reports.  This work fills a gap in the documented evidence about the contribution and impacts of HE that is delivered by the FE sector.  We hope that it will also now prompt consideration of the need for better data.”

The report concludes that:

1. College based HE students reflect the different policy agenda for FE

  • College based HE is significantly more likely to involve part time study; around a half of college students are part time compared with only a quarter of those in HEIs
  • College based HE students tend to be older; half are aged 25+ compared with 29% in HEIs
  • College based HE students are more likely to come from non—traditional backgrounds whether this is measured by POLAR [2] category, deprivation indices or qualifications on entry

2. College based HE students are more likely to be local

  • Over three quarters of college based HE students are recruited from the local LEP area compared with just over one third for HEIs; these students travel an average distance from home of 17 miles compared with 52
  • The difference between FECs and HEIs in this respect is most marked for full time students
  • Those colleges that offer most HE provision do not recruit more widely than average but simply recruit more from their local area

3. College based HE programmes reflect policy priorities

  • FE based students tend to study applied rather than pure sciences and vocational areas rather than the humanities
  • FE based students are more likely to be studying sub degree level HE qualifications such as Diplomas or Foundation Degrees
  • Part time students in FE are more likely than those in HEIs to be engaged in initial higher education

4. More work is needed to understand the links between HE and LEP priorities

  • While slightly more college based HE can be linked to LEP priorities it is not clear how such priorities relate to the scale or level of skills needed in the local workforce
  • Areas vary widely in the proportions of students studying LEP priority provision there; this applies whether considering FECs or HEIs

5. More work is required on improving the quality of HE data to ensure that the full contribution of College based HE can be demonstrated

[1] Uses the 2011 BIS methodology

[2] POLAR defines areas of participation in higher education – proportion of 18-19 year olds entering HE – from 1 (least) to 5 (most)


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