The further education sector comprises 435 colleges covering different types of study.
There are also 52higher educationinstitutions that deliver further educationprogrammes and 235 "external institutions", which are mainly local authority adult education centres. These also receive money from the FurtherEducation Funding Council. FE colleges vary in size - per cent have up to 2,000 students while 24er cent have morethan 10,000.
The FEFC allocated more than Pounds 2.9 billion in recurrent funding to further education sector colleges, higher education institutions and external institutions in 1997-98. The amount of funding allocated to all institutions increased by 0.5 per cent between 1996 and 1997 and 1997 and 1998.
There were nearly four million further education students in 1997-98, an increase of 31 per cent since 1994-95, mainly in part-time provision.
Most are adult students enrolled on part-time programmes and most are on vocational programmes - 15 per cent are on national vocational qualification (NVQ) or general NVQ courses, 19 per cent are on GCSE and GCE A/AS level courses, with the rest on other vocational courses.
Most popular subjects were business-related qualifications, humanities, science, and those related to health and community care.
Of students where the level was known, 32 per cent were on advanced and 3 per cent on higher education programmes.
Retention and achievement
Funding council data show average retention rates across the sector in 1996-97 of 80 per cent for level 1 qualifications, 77 per cent for level 2 qualifications (including intermediate GNVQs, level 2 NVQs and GCSEs) and 78 per cent for level 3 qualifications (including advanced GNVQs, level 3 NVQs and GCE A levels). The best colleges had retention rates of 85 per cent or higher.