Puneet Varma (Editor)

Further education

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit

Further education (often abbreviated FE) in the United Kingdom and Ireland, similar to continuing education in the United States, is a term used to refer to education (in addition to that received at secondary school), that is distinct from the higher education offered in universities and also some FE colleges. It may be at any level in compulsory secondary education, from entry to higher level qualifications such as awards, certificates, diplomas and other vocational, competency-based qualifications (including those previously known as NVQ/SVQs) through awarding organisations including City and Guilds, Edexcel (BTEC) and OCR. In addition, HE qualifications are often provided such as HNC, HND, Foundation Degree or PGCE. FE colleges are also a large provider of apprenticeships, where most of the training takes place in the apprentices' workplace with some day release into college.


A distinction is usually made between FE and higher education (HE), an education at a higher level than secondary school, usually provided in distinct institutions such as universities but also provided in some FE colleges. FE in the United Kingdom is usually a means to attain an intermediate, advanced or follow-up qualification necessary to progress into HE, or begin a specific career path, e.g. accountant, engineer or veterinary surgeon, for anyone over 16, primarily available at colleges of Further Education, work-based learning, or adult and community learning institutions.


In Australia, technical and further education or TAFE (/ˈtf/) institutions provide a wide range of predominantly vocational tertiary education courses, mostly qualifying courses under the National Training System/Australian Qualifications Framework/Australian Quality Training Framework. Fields covered include business, finance, hospitality, tourism, construction, engineering, visual arts, information technology and community work.

Individual TAFE institutions (usually with numerous campuses) are known as either colleges or institutes, depending on the state or territory. TAFE colleges are owned, operated and financed by the various state and territory governments. This is in contrast to the university sector, whose funding is predominantly the domain of the federal government and whose universities are predominantly owned by the state governments.


Further education (FE) colleges in England provide high-quality technical and professional education and training for young people, adults and employers. They prepare over three million students with valuable skills for the workplace, helping to develop their career opportunities and strengthen the local, regional and national economy.

Colleges are inspirational places to learn because education and training is delivered by expert teaching staff in industry-standard facilities. From basic skills to postgraduate degrees, colleges offer first rate academic and vocational teaching, in a range of professions including engineering, hospitality, IT, construction and the creative arts.

Colleges in England are incorporated under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. These include:

  • General further education colleges
  • Sixth form colleges
  • Land-based colleges
  • Specialist designated colleges
  • Art, design and performing art colleges
  • Colleges are primarily covered by the Department for Education (DfE). Until July 2016, colleges were also covered by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). With the abolition of BIS and formation of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on 14 July 2016, responsibility for FE colleges moved to DfE. The regulatory body for sixth form colleges was already DfE prior to the 2016 changes.

    Funding for colleges is provided through the Education Funding Agency (EFA) (for students up to 18 years old, and those with learning difficulties/disabilities up to 24 years old) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) (for students aged 19 and over).

    All colleges and FE providers are subject to inspection by Ofsted which monitors the quality of provision in publicly funded institutions in England and Wales.

    Colleges in England are represented by the Association of Colleges.

    Northern Ireland

    Further education in Northern Ireland is provided through six multi-campus colleges [1]. Northern Ireland's Department for Employment and Learning has the responsibility for providing FE in the province.

  • Belfast Metropolitan College
  • North West Regional College
  • Northern Regional College
  • South Eastern Regional College
  • South West College
  • Southern Regional College
  • Most secondary schools also provide a Sixth Form scheme whereby a student can choose to attend said school for 2 additional years to complete their AS and A-levels.


    Scotland's further education colleges provide education for those young people who follow a vocational route after the end of compulsory education at age 16. They offer a wide range of vocational qualifications to young people and older adults, including vocational, competency-based qualifications (previously known as SVQs), Higher National Certificates and Higher National Diplomas. Frequently, the first two years of higher education, usually in the form of an HND can be taken in an FE college, followed by attendance at university.


    Further education in Wales is provided through:

  • Sixth form colleges
  • FE colleges
  • High school sixth form within secondary schools
  • Further education in Wales comes under the remit of the Welsh Assembly Government and was formerly funded by ELWa before its merger with the Assembly.

    Republic of Ireland

    The FE education in the Republic of Ireland is similar to that offered in the UK. Typical areas include apprenticeships and other vocational qualifications in many disciplines, such as childcare, farming, retail, and tourism. There are many different types of further education awards, known as Post Leaving Certificates.

    Further education has expanded immensely in recent years helped by the institutions and their relationships with their communities. Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI), which was established on November 6, 2012, is the regulatory for FE qualifications.


    Further education Wikipedia