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College higher education scholars

22 June 2016

Colleges in the UK have been consistently providing higher education (HE) opportunities for students throughout the post-war period. There are many reasons for this, including providing widening opportunities for ‘hard to reach’ students, often located in HE ‘cold spots’ around the country. Many of the courses are also professional and technical in nature, aimed at providing local companies with an appropriately highly skilled local workforce. Colleges provide the opportunity for people to access HE courses who may not otherwise have the opportunity. Of course, colleges are not universities, and some argue that a further education environment would be unable to provide a sufficient HE ethos or culture – a distinct sense of HE-ness. Over the last year the Association of Colleges has started a project to change this. Working alongside the Higher Education Academy, the Quality Assurance Agency, and the National Union of Students, and funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, our aim is to strengthen the profile of professional and technical higher education provided by English further education colleges. This quickly became known as the Scholarship Project. This is supporting the development and embedding of a distinct college higher education scholarly ethos across the sector. A number of colleges from across the country are involved with the project which will look to test and develop a scholarship framework which can be shared and extended across the country. This will not only encourage individual staff members to develop their own scholarly profiles, but will also explore the ways in which students might become more scholarly in their higher learning activities. Colleges can offer prospective higher education students with a distinctive experience. The close alignment with local labour markets is particularly key. By building on this and embedding more distinct forms of scholarly activity which enhances teaching and learning can only be a positive for students and lecturers. John Lea is the Director of the Scholarship Project AoC’s Second College HE Research and Scholarship Conference will take place on Tuesday 28 June in Birmingham. Delegates will hear and discuss emerging models of institutional research and scholarship and the event will provide the opportunity to discover the policies and practices that can be implemented at your college. Themes of the conference include students as partners in learning and colleges and employers working in partnership. Visit AoC Create’s website for more information and to book a place.