A team of researchers – led by the University of Stirling – has been awarded nearly £1 million from the Economic and Social Research Council to study governance in the Further Education (FE) sector.
Professor Cate Watson will lead the team of researchers from the Universities of Stirling, Birmingham and Cardiff to investigate the processes and practices of governing in FE colleges across the UK.
The project, which will run for three years from April 2018, will observe boards in action in eight colleges, to examine how they contribute to the strategic aims of meeting the needs of learners, employers and labour markets.
Professor Cate Watson.
The FE sector plays a vital economic and social role in the UK by providing high-level technical skills and ‘second chances’ for adult learners. However, following Brexit, colleges are facing a major challenge in addressing the skills gap.
“Governing boards have received little attention from researchers,” said Professor Watson. “Most research has focused on structures and procedures in terms of formal accountability mechanisms while little is known about the processes and practices of governing, and how these relate to leadership and the aims and outcomes of the organisation.
“FE is currently undergoing extensive restructuring leading to fewer, larger colleges with the aim of offering increased efficiency and resilience. Such rationalisation can be expected to foster fundamental change which has considerable implications for leadership and governance. This makes the research here both highly significant and timely.”
The research team also includes Stirling’s Dr Gary Husband and Honorary Professor Ron Hill; Professor David James, of the University of Cardiff; and the University of Birmingham’s Professor Ann-Marie Bathmaker.