Further education (often abbreviated FE) in the United Kingdom and Ireland, not dissimilar to continuing education in the United States, is a term used to refer to post-compulsory education (in addition to that received at secondary school), that is distinct from the higher education offered in universities. It may be at any level above compulsory secondary education, from basic skills training to higher vocational qualifications such as PGCE, NVQ, City and Guilds, BTEC, HNC, HND or Foundation Degree.
A distinction is usually made between FE and higher education HE, an education at a higher level than secondary school, usually provided in distinct institutions such as universities. FE in the United Kingdom is usually a means to attain an intermediate or follow up qualification necessary to attend university, or begin a specific career path, e.g. Quantity Surveyor, Town Planner or Veterinary Surgeon, for anyone over 16, primarily available at Colleges of Further Education, work-based learning, or adult and community learning institutions.
Further education by country
In Australia, technical and further education or TAFE // institutions provide a wide range of predominantly vocational tertiary education courses, mostly qualifying courses under the National Training System/Australian Qualifications Framework/Australian Quality Training Framework. Fields covered include hospitality, tourism, construction, engineering, secretarial skills, visual arts, information technology and community work.
Individual TAFE institutions (usually with many campuses) are known as either colleges or institutes, depending on the state or territory. TAFE colleges are owned, operated and financed by the various state and territory governments. This is in contrast to the higher education sector, whose funding is predominantly the domain of the Commonwealth government and whose universities are predominantly owned by the state governments.
From 2001-2010 FE in England was managed by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the then largest government agency funding education provision. The LSC had a budget of some £13 billion and is organised on a regional basis through around 47 local councils. The LSC had a particular mission to improve and expand further education provision, driven by the UK government's desire to increase standards in post-16 student retention and achievement, particularly in skills-based vocational provision in FE colleges. Recent government-driven LSC and Department for Children, Schools and Families policies, such as Success for All and the Skills Strategy, articulate this vision.
Colleges in England that are regarded as part of the FE sector include:
- General FE (GFE) and tertiary colleges
- Sixth form colleges
- Specialist colleges (mainly colleges of agriculture and horticulture and colleges of drama and dance)
- Adult education institutes
In addition, FE courses may be offered in the school sector, both in sixth form (16-19) schools, or, more commonly, sixth forms within secondary schools.
The Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS - formerly the Quality Improvement Agency and Centre for Excellence in Leadership) is the sector owned body supporting the development of excellent and sustainable FE provision across the learning and skills sector. Its aim is to accelerate the drive for excellence and, working in partnership with all parts of the sector, builds on the sector’s own capacity to design, commission and deliver improvement and strategic change.
For technology support and advice, JISC provides a network of regional support centres, free at the point of use to anyone working in colleges in the UK.
From September 2007, teachers working in FE in England are required to gain professional status, known as Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS). The first stage of QTLS is an initial 'passport to teaching' module. The second stage is full teacher training, which would typically take up to five years to complete. The qualification covers both taught and practical skills, and also requires teachers to undertake 30 hours of continuous professional development per year.
Good quality support for employers is indicated by the award of the Training Quality Standard, an initiative to improve the quality of provision for vocational education, while all colleges and FE providers are subject to regular inspections by Ofsted.
Lifelong Learning UK is the independent sector skills council responsible for the qualifications and standards for teachers working in FE. The trade unions for FE staff are the University and College Union and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. Teachers working in the sixth form colleges, sixth form schools and sixth forms of secondary schools are eligible to join the teaching unions which recruit in the secondary school sector
In England, further education is often seen as forming one part of a wider learning and skills sector, alongside workplace education, prison education, and other types of non-school, non-university education and training. Since June 2009, the sector is overseen by the new Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, although some parts (such as education and training for 14-19 year olds) fall within the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Further education in Northern Ireland is provided through six multi-campus colleges . Northern Ireland's Department for Employment and Learning has the responsibility for providing FE in the province.
- Belfast Metropolitan College
- North West Regional College
- Northern Regional College
- South Eastern Regional College
- South West College
- Southern Regional College
Most secondary schools also provide a Sixth Form scheme whereby a student can choose to attend said school for 2 additional years to complete their AS and A-levels.
Scotland's further education colleges provide education for those young people who follow a vocational route after the end of compulsory education at age 16. They offer a wide range of vocational qualifications to young people and older adults, including SVQs, Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas. Frequently, the first two years of higher education, usually in the form of an HND can be taken in an FE college, followed by attendance at university.
Further education in Wales is provided through:
Ireland has further education colleges.
- AoC NILTA
- Bullying in further education
- Education by country
- National Union of Students of the United Kingdom
- Technical and Further Education (Australia)
- Workers Educational Association
- Learning and Skills Network website
- Learning and Skills Council website
- Quality Improvement Agency website
- Tertiary Colleges website