Further Education: Fulfilling Its Purpose?

Further Education: Fulfilling Its Purpose?

Further Education is supposed to provide a ladder of progression from school and to Higher Education, but research has called this into question.

This project will consider the extent to which FE has produced improvements in educational and employment opportunities in the last decade, and the processes driving these patterns of change.

Aims and Objectives

This project aims to challenge the widely held notion that FE facilitates educational and professional progression as a step between secondary school and Higher Education. Research suggests that at least in Scotland, FE is something of a ghetto for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and for adults, acting as a site where individuals are ‘stacked’ with little prospect of progression to high-quality HE or good jobs (Osborne and McLaurin, 2006).

To this purpose we will use comprehensive Scotland-wide data to address the following initial research questions:

  • Who gains access to the FE sector? How does the map of FE attendance compare directly with that for HE?
  • Do FE students successfully progress through the system to attain positive employment outcomes, or do they become ‘parked’, taking a succession of low-level courses that keep them out of the workforce. Who progresses and who gets parked?
  • To what extent does FE provide possibilities to progress to HE and how are these mediated by other factors?
  • Do FE subject choices align with projections of future skills shortages?


The role of FE and its contribution to meeting the skills demand as set out in the UK government’s Industrial Strategies are vital elements within current policy debates in education.


Lead: Dr Phil Mason

Team: Dr Muir Houston, Professor Catherine Lido, Professor Michael Osborne

Jointly funded by