Further Education colleges play huge part in increasing access to Higher Education

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In A-level results week, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has today published its College Higher Education Local Impact Summary (CHELIS) report showing the increasing value of college-based higher education in widening participation by bringing it closer to students’ homes.

The report analyses the numbers and characteristics of those studying for higher education qualifications at further education (FE) colleges, compared with those studying at higher education institutions (HEIs).

Key findings of the research:

  • Over 45% of higher level apprentices in FE colleges come from geographical areas that traditionally have the lowest rates of participation in higher education. Full time learners studying at an FE college are almost twice as likely to come from these ‘cold spots’ as those studying at an HEI.
  • The average travel distance for an HE student at an FE college between home postcode and learning location is 15 miles, compared with the average distance travelled by HEI learners of 53 miles.
  • In 2015/16, FE colleges recruited more than 80% of their HE learners from within their Local Enterprise Partnership area.

Helen Pettifor, Director of Professional Standards and Workforce Development at the ETF, said

“This research demonstrates the increasingly important role that FE colleges will play in making higher education more accessible – and widening participation for learners from all backgrounds. Our report shows that for many learners, studying at a college locally is a popular choice as it allows them to keep travel and living costs down – and offers more flexibility. This is also beneficial for mature students who want to study for a degree without having to move away from their family or need to combine employment commitments.

“In line with this research, we want to ensure that all teachers and trainers are equipped with the skills and knowledge for teaching higher education in FE colleges which is why we are developing a HE in FE teacher training Level 5 module for the autumn term.”

Other key findings include:

  • The net present value of college based higher education is approximately £3.5 billion2.
  • There are 151,360 higher education learners studying at FE colleges.
  • The number of higher level apprenticeships has increased from just over 7,000 to more than 16,000 in three years.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) enrolments in FE colleges at Levels 4 and 5 have grown by 5.7% from 30,830 to 32,690 in the past three years.

The College Higher Education Local Impact Summary (CHELIS) research carried out by RCU3, provides evidence of the huge impact and reach of HE delivered by FE colleges, based on 2015/16 data.

This report updates and extends the analysis of college-based higher education in England prepared by RCU for the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and partners in March 2016.

Like that initial analysis, it is based on a series of reports for colleges summarising the economic and social impact of their higher education offer, taking into account local priorities as set by the relevant Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and local community.

Download a full copy of the report.

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