FE and Skills across the four countries of the UK: New opportunities for policy learning

Tracy Irwin, Ann Hodgson, Ken Spours, Martin Waring, Jim Gallacher, David James

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review

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International comparison is a hugely powerful
tool in policy making when it is used in the right
way – learning from and contextualising effective
elements rather than seeking to simply transplant
programmes from one setting to another.
When visitors from overseas come to look at the ‘UK education system’ one
of the first things we have to say is that there is no single system. Education,
FE and skills are areas of devolved responsibility and have developed
very differently in each of the four nations. That can present challenges of
coherence, for instance where an employer seeks to train apprentices in more
than one nation within the UK, or a training provider wants to operate across
It also presents a unique opportunity. As with federal nations such as the US
and Australia, it provides us with a potential laboratory to test and improve our
education policies. Four nations share many characteristics of labour market,
organisation and culture and yet are pursuing sometimes very different
approaches, with a variety of outcomes.
With such a fascinating range of policies and lessons on our doorsteps, we
felt that it was essential that we took the time to understand the FE and skills
systems across the UK – to compare, contrast and draw out emerging practice.
We are very grateful to the team at UCL’s Institute of Education and the country
experts for organising a fascinating series of seminars culminating in this
However, we don’t want this to be the end of the story. We want it to be a
step towards closer ongoing collaboration and practice sharing between the
nations so that we can continue to develop the most effective and suitable
policies for each of our contexts. We look forward to working with colleagues
across the UK to achieve this.
Original languageEnglish
TypeSpecial report
Media of outputDocument
PublisherUCL Press
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Aug 2018


  • Further education
  • Policy
  • UK regional study


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