FE colleges play an integral role in making higher education courses accessible to hundreds of thousands of learners, a new report by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) concludes.
According to the ETF's College Higher Education Local Impact Summary report, written by consultancy firm RCU and published today, colleges recruit almost double the proportion of HE students from their local areas than higher education institutions (HEIs).
In 2015-16, colleges recruited almost 80 per cent of their HE students from within the college’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area, compared with 37 per cent for universities.
Helen Pettifor, director of professional standards and workforce development at the ETF, said the research “demonstrates the increasingly important role that FE colleges will play in making higher education more accessible”.
“Our report shows that for many learners, studying at a college locally is a popular choice as it allows them to keep travel and living costs down – and offers more flexibility,” she added. “This is also beneficial for mature students who want to study for a degree without having to move away from their family or need to combine employment commitments."
Colleges reach the hard-to-access
More than 45 per cent of higher-level apprentices in FE colleges come from areas with traditionally low rates of HE participation. Full-time learners at FE colleges are almost twice as likely to come from these areas as those studying at HEIs.
Students stay local...
The average distance a HE student travels to attend their college is 15 miles, compared with 53 miles for university students.
... and colleges focus on their immediate vicinity
In 2015-16 colleges recruited more than 80 per cent of learners from within their LEP area.
A high-value sector
College-based HE is worth approximately £3.5 billion.
Student numbers drop...
There were 151,360 HE learners studying at FE colleges in England in 2015-16 – down from 156,610 in 2013-14.
... but Stem on the rise
Enrolments on Stem programmes in colleges at levels 4 and 5 have grown by 5.7 per cent in the past three years – rising from 30,830 to 32,690.
Higher apprenticeships growth
The number of higher-level apprenticeships has increased from 7,000 in 2013-14 to 16,300 in 2015-16.