Further education in the UK: lessons from the governance of colleges in Scotland



Watson C, Husband G & Young H (2020) Further education in the UK: lessons from the governance of colleges in Scotland. Journal of Education and Work, 33 (2), pp. 129-142.

Further education policy across the UK has diverged significantly over the last decade. While in both countries colleges have been subject to a programme of restructuring and rationalisation, Scotland now has a largely ‘nationalised’ sector while England has adopted a more market-led approach which has been characterised in some quarters as a ‘free for all’. However, there are some signs that England is starting to turn away from this stance and it is therefore instructive to examine the influence of policy on the Scottish sector, particularly as England embarks on a programme of devolution to the regions. This paper draws on policy documents and interviews with key policy actors to examine the ‘Scottish Approach’ to policy and the effects of this on the performance of the sector. While this has undoubtedly resulted in a more coherent system it is argued that colleges have paid a price for this, foregoing much of their previous autonomy. Moreover, it is not clear that the approach has addressed the ‘skills gap’ as currently perceived. It is concluded that much can be learned by greater engagement across the border, informed by clearer understanding of how policy contexts impact on the leadership and governance of colleges.

Colleges; governance; further and higher education; incorporation of colleges; outcome agreements; further education policy; regionalisation; skills; sociology of worth; training

Journal of Education and Work: Volume 33, Issue 2

FundersESRC Economic and Social Research Council
Publication date31/12/2020
Publication date online13/02/2020
Date accepted by journal25/01/2020

People (1)


Professor Cate Watson

Professor Cate Watson

Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences

Projects (1)