Further education colleges move research up the agenda

December 10, 1999

Further education colleges are stepping up the quantity and quality of research they do in response to the government's lifelong learning agenda, writes Alan Thomson.

Well over 100 colleges, at least a quarter of the sector, are now involved in research with tens of thousands of lecturers thought to be actively engaged on research, according to the Further Education Development Agency.

All but one of the nine English regions have a further education research network, supported by FEDA. Network delegates gathered in Cambridge yesterday and today for their third annual conference.

Ursula Howard, FEDA's director of research and development, said: "Research is higher up the policy agenda than it has ever been in further education. It is about further education coming of age. The spotlight has swung on to lifelong learning and the further education sector.

"I think this kind of practical research is forgotten about. It is sad that, with a few notable exceptions, research into post-16 education, which is not higher education, does not attract a great deal of attention in universities.

"We are not about creating a competitive research culture in further education but about research into best practice in further education and lifelong learning. We are looking to create effective partnerships with higher education in terms of that research."

Lifelong learning minister Malcolm Wicks was due to address the conference yesterday.

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