HE in FE: Scholarly activity and research

HE in FE

A new resource has been set up by Hilary Thomas from JISC Regional Support Office North West, and me, Candice Satchwell.

It is a Moodle designed to provide a support network for people wanting to engage in research or scholarly activity in Further Education Colleges.

Feel free to log in and have a look here, for the Research and Scholarly Activity Network (RaSAN). You can log in as a guest, or you can request access by Creating an Account.

We hope you find it useful – let us know know your views.

Background on scholarly activity and research in HE in FE

For lecturers on HE programmes in FE Colleges, the issue of scholarly activity or research arises, not only as a requirement for their teaching, but also from a sense that HE teaching should be accompanied by research.  As a HEFCE report (2003) states, however, colleges make no differentiation in pay and conditions for those teaching HE or FE, and although attempts are made to reduce teaching hours to allow for research (or reading) time, “the resulting teaching load would still appear dauntingly high to someone from an HEI”.  The report continues:

“The extent to which necessary staff development can be combined with this commitment is seen as a crucial issue. One HE manager admitted that ’this is a matter of some resentment because of the additional scholarship and updating of skills to be able to teach at this level’.”

On the other hand, resentment can occur on the part of FE lecturers who are excluded from the experience of teaching HE, and who feel that teaching disaffected 16-19 year-olds (and now, increasingly, 14-15 year olds as well) is far more demanding and less rewarding than teaching willing and often highly capable adults. Managers are therefore in a position of pacifying both sides, while unable to reward either sufficiently.

Scholarly activity can be interpreted in a wide variety of ways, but is generally seen as something that does or should accompany teaching in higher education.  However, as the quotations below express, in FE the concept of research relates much more closely to teaching than it might do in a research-led university:

“Whatever the interpretation, respondents took pains to stress why these activities took place: ‘they are focused on excellence for our students, not upon establishing the college’s reputation for research’.” (HEFCE 2003)

“Young (2002) examines lecturers’ perspectives of working in the HE in FE context, and compares their views with those of colleagues in universities. Very succinctly, FEC-based lecturers are seen to have identities characterized by strong commitments to teaching, as distinct from e.g. academics or researchers.” (Jones 2006)

“First and foremost I’m a teacher, not an academic.” (interview with college lecturer)

As more and more degrees in colleges are validated, the issue of what constitutes research, and how much lecturers ‘should’ be doing of it, continues to rear its head. At our Networking Day for HE in FE lecturers, the topic of scholarly activity was a concern for many of those attending.  We hope to be adding further to this debate on these pages. Contributions welcome!


  • HEFCE (2003)Supporting higher education in further education colleges: Policy, practice and prospects (Good practice,  Issues for senior managers, April 2003/16), p.10.
  • Jones, R. (2006)Scholarly activity in the context of HE in FE.
  • Young, P. (2002) – “‘Scholarship is the word that dare not speak its name’: Lecturers’ Experiences of Teaching on a Higher Education Programme in a Further Education College”, Journal of Further and Higher Education, Vol. 26, No. 3, pp273-286.