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In basic terms, the key similarity between further education (FE) and higher education (HE) is that they are both learning levels above secondary. The main difference, however, is that FE is below HE in terms of the learning pyramid.
In 2016-17, teaching staff in the FE sphere accounted for 42% of overall staff in UK colleges. This amounts to 24,998 members of staff.
Among overall HE numbers, those engaged in teaching only or teaching and research roles accounted for 164,955 of a total 217,065 HE jobs.
To work in the FE sector, you will need a minimum of a Level 3 qualification within the subject area you want to teach in as a general rule. Since 2013, it has not been a requirement for FE teachers to hold formal teaching qualifications, which is welcome news for those who may have seen this as an obstacle to getting into the sector. FE is a sector where you can get qualifications while actually in the teaching role.
The full teaching qualification for the FE sector is the level 5 Diploma in Education and Training (DET), which is often called a PGCE or Cert Ed if this is taken at a university.
Classroom experience that will enable you to work in FE can be gained at schools, colleges, universities and private or community organisations.
Bursaries are a great incentive to enter the FE sector if you wish to teach in the following areas: maths, science, engineering, computing, SEND, and English. The funds available range from £26,000 for maths, science, engineering and computing teachers, £15,000 for SEND teachers and £12,000 for English teachers.
To become a HE lecturer it is standard practice for universities to ask for a masters or PhD qualification in the specific subject area you wish to teach. The Advance HE accredits university teaching and learning CPD courses.
You will also be expected to complete a teaching qualification “soon after you start”. Universities usually offer these to those embarking on a new career as a HE lecturer and can be undertaken while you are working.
The UK government also stresses that “you'll need several years' relevant work experience if you want to teach vocational subjects, for example art or engineering”.
For teachers already working in the FE sector wishing to enter the HE sector, the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) framework offers alternative qualifications that may better suit the individual.
One final option is the Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA). This is a great option for those cannot find either funding or the time to engage in a formal qualification. The status of the FHEA is equivalent to a PGCHE.
A changing economic landscape in the UK due to the Covid-19 and Brexit has seen governmental policy switch towards promoting new skills.
A key element of the government’s strategy involves the FE sector and the introduction of T Levels. They were introduced in September 2020 and are the equivalent to three A levels. T Levels “have been developed in collaboration with employers and businesses so that the content meets the needs of industry and prepares students for work, further training or study”.
T Levels will transform the FE sector. They place an emphasis on vocational skills and present students with the chance to gain ‘on-the-job’ experience. High demand for the new qualification will see an increased demand for FE teachers to pass on their skills and expertise on a wide range of subjects, including accounting; catering; digital production, design and development; engineering, manufacturing, processing and control; and media, broadcast and production.
Meanwhile, a policy consensus has concluded that England must create a more flexible HE system with more gateways and access to higher skills.
A new report has found that there will need to be 350,000 more HE places by 2035 in England if the sector is to meet growing demand. Speaking about the report’s findings, Emma Hardy MP, Labour's Shadow Universities Minister, declared: "For the UK to be a high-skill, high-wage economy, we need a higher education system that can meet people's aspirations and support them to follow their chosen path.”
There will be renewed onus on recruiting FE teachers due to the pledge in September 2020 by the government to boost employment chances in a post-Covid-19 economy.
Adults that do not have A-levels are set to be offered the chance to take a free college course as the government braces itself for a sharp rise in unemployment as the pandemic continues to affect the jobs market.
As of April 2020, those without A-levels or equivalent qualifications will be able to study a college course in England, which will be funded through a £2.5bn national skills fund. Therefore, it could be a good time to become an FE teacher as demand for courses soars.
HE loans are to be made more flexible under plans laid out by prime minister Boris Johnson in September 2020. Students will have the chance to extend the period of their study by separating it into chunks, as well as transfer credits between universities and colleges.
It is a move designed to “transform the training and skills system, making it fit for the 21st century economy”. The lifetime skills guarantee offers everyone the opportunity to train and retrain in a move that should require more HE teachers in the years ahead.
With the main barriers to pursuing HE for many adult learners being financial and a lack of flexibility, according to research carried out by Universities UK, the new policy should encourage more people to study “alongside other life commitments”.
Polling conducted by Savanta ComRes for Universities UK related to the changes to the HE sector has shone a light on the scale of demand for the introduction of studying individual modules. Of those unemployed, at risk of unemployment, or looking to learn new skills, 82% expressed an interest in this new change.
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