Colleges in England are responding positively to new freedoms and flexibilities awarded in recent years, according to recent government findings.

A number of post-16 colleges are finding innovative ways of delivering vocational education and training (VET) in response to reduced public funding and increased institutional accountability. This has resulted in expanded apprenticeship provision and work experience opportunities. There has been a rise in the number of colleges working with local employers, Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities to develop specialist training that responds to local needs. Colleges have also started to collaborate with, sponsor, and support other providers (such as studio schools and university technical colleges).

Recent changes have often been driven by college governors, who have benefitted from formal training and professional development seminars and webinars offered by the Education and Training Foundation and professional associations. Several new governors have also been appointed during the last few years, many of whom are new to the VET sector.

As part of the government’s strategies to simplify VET and increase productivity in work, further reforms are in the pipeline, aiming to create fewer (often larger) and more resilient, efficient providers. This is expected to support greater occupational specialisation, and assist progression to higher professional and technical qualifications, while supporting teaching of English and maths. A number of locally-driven reviews of college provision will take place between July 2015 and March 2017, aiming to link VET to local needs and support the development of a highly skilled work force.

Further reading:

Post-16 education and training institutions review, BIS policy paper, 20 July 2015,

Fixing the foundations: creating a more prosperous nation, BIS policy paper, 10 July 2015,

An assessment of the impact of governance reform in further education colleges: a review of expectations, BIS, 4 March 2015,