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College Higher Education

UEL to research expansion of higher education in colleges

The University of East London (UEL) has been awarded £¼ million of joint funding from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Association of Colleges (AoC) to carry out research into the delivery of higher education in further education colleges.

The £246,000 programme will examine part-time recruitment to degree level courses in FE colleges, identify barriers to expansion and make recommendations to enhance colleges’ capacity to develop HE courses and support growth.

The two-year project will be carried out by Continuum, the Centre for Widening Participation Policy Studies at UEL, which has expertise in widening participation and higher vocational education.

Part-time enrolments have been in decline for six years and saw a drop of nearly 40% this academic year (2012/13), coinciding with the introduction of loans for part time study. Other reasons include: reductions in employers’ training budgets; the poor regard that younger students have for this form of study; the uneven spread of part-time courses, and limited promotion of the new loans system.

HE is a core priority for many colleges, the majority of which provide undergraduate and postgraduate level courses. College HE offers cost-effective courses close to home and has a strong track record in widening participation to people from disadvantaged backgrounds who wouldn’t necessarily consider going to university.

Professor John Storan, Director of Continuum, said: “We are delighted to be undertaking this important research project on behalf of the AoC and BIS, which will address both the reasons for the downturn in part-time HE college participation and also examine the factors which impact on the expansion of HE capacity within colleges.”

AoC’s Higher Education Manager Nick Davy said: “This is a significant research programme and will be crucial to widening our understanding of the underlying causes for the recent decline in part-time HE numbers, improve colleges’ market intelligence, and inform future policy making to expand college HE and support strategic objectives, such as achieving degree-awarding powers.”

University and Science Minister David Willetts said: “This is an important study which will help us in our drive to create a more diverse sector with more opportunities for part-time or accelerated courses, distance learning or higher level vocation study.”

Draft literature review

The draft literature review (pdf), prepared by Dr Anne Thompson (Continuum Centre Associate), has been used to inform activity in the early phases of the project. The review will be further developed and enhanced as the project progresses and a final version will be uploaded at the end of June 2014. We welcome comments from colleagues on the draft review.

“The Review is a tour de force, bringing together a number of aspects of PT admissions that have previously either sat in very separate documents or been neglected by previous researchers.”


  • 5 November 2013 AoC Portfolio Group Presentation - Anthony Hudson
  • 20 November 2013 AoC Conference, ICC Birmingham - John Storan Presentation‌
  • 29 November 2013 Mixed Economy Group (MEG) Meeting, Friends Meeting House, London - Arti Saraswat and Anthony Hudson
  • 7 February 2014 Mixed Economy Group (MEG) Meeting
  • 11 March 2014 AoC HE Conference London - Arti Saraswat and John Storan
  • 2-4 July 2014 FACE Conference, University of Salford, Manchester
  • 23-25 September 2014 BERA Annual Conference 
  • 27 November 2014 Access to HE Summit 
  • 10-12 December 2014 SRHE Annual Conference
  • December 2014 SRHE Annual Conference