Further education college leaders: securing the sector’s future

Dennis, Carol Azumah; Springbett, Octavia and Walker, Lizzie (2020). Further education college leaders: securing the sector’s future. Futures, 115, article no. 102478.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2019.102478


This article examines the ways in which actions taken by the leadership teams of further education (FE) colleges in the UK are consistent with leaders’ beliefs of the role and value of the sector, exploring the extent to which such actions might bring about desireable futures. The future of the sector has been an ongoing concern for commentators as austerity drives extensive cuts in funding that force leaders to make difficult decisions regarding students, staffing and curriculum. Drawing on interview data from a case study of 10 leadership teams, the article utilises three previously identified scenarios of potential future worlds of education to assess the implications of leadership decisions for colleges. Our analysis suggests that leaders experience a policy-driven tension between two ethics of survival: survival as a financially viable institution and survival as a representation of the core values of FE. The paper concludes that while leadership actions may contribute to the further political devaluing of the sector and its designation as a labour-market skills provider, some attempts are made to preserve its wider contribution to society, offering a basis for the creation of a more socially just future for FE.

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