Further educations: transformative teaching and learning for adults in times of austerity

Duckworth, Vicky and Smith, Rob (2019) Further educations: transformative teaching and learning for adults in times of austerity. In: Being an Adult Learner in Austere Times: Exploring the Contexts of Higher, Further and Community Education. Palgrave, London, pp. 151-177. ISBN 9783319972084

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In this chapter, a decade on from the financial crisis that heralded the introduction of austerity measures in the UK, we will outline our perspective on the impact of cuts on adult participation in further education. Then, through reference to the FE in England: Transforming Lives and Communities research project – a study that set out to identify and celebrate examples of transformative teaching and learning in further education – we will illustrate how further education still transcends its reductive and instrumentalist neoliberal purposing by providing a counter-hegemonic and ‘differential’ space for adult learners. Evidence from the project shows how despite straitened finances and the constraints of a constantly-changing annual funding methodology that incentivises college self-interest and gaming, further education providers continue to empower people and their communities. In doing so, they challenge intergenerational inequality and enhance agency and hope.

Since Prime Minister Jim Callaghan’s Great Debate speech of 1976, the policy agenda in the UK has placed an increasingly instrumentalist onus on compulsory education to connect with the needs of industry. The Further and Higher Education Act of 1992 incorporated further education colleges, thereby laying the ground for a transformation of their role away from being historically rooted, organic expressions of local and municipal industrial need and into agents of national economic and skills policy (Smith 2013). The Act restructured educational provision for adults and young people over the age of 16 and connected the new further education ‘sector’ through the umbilicus of a newly devised funding methodology to central government. Apart from the erosion of further education teachers’ working conditions and a series of disruptive re-regulations of their professional status, the last quarter century has been characterised by a string of policy interventions (for example, General National Vocational Qualification (1994), Modern Apprenticeships (2001), Train to Gain (2006), Entry to Employment (2003), the 14–19 diploma (2008) and the launch of ‘New’ Apprenticeships (2017), see Smith and O’Leary 2015: 176) many of these having a significant impact on college teachers’ work and students’ learning experiences. While there was a policy commitment to lifelong learning during this period, since 2009 this has increasingly fallen by the wayside. The focus instead has been on 16-19 provision, the recent setting of a target for the recruitment of 3 million apprentices by 2020 being the latest example in a line of ‘new’ vocational qualifications.

Item Type: Book Section
23 January 2019Published
Subjects: CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Education and Social Work
Depositing User: Rob Smith
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2019 07:56
Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 15:55
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/7540

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