Further education (FE) is the sector that provides learning beyond compulsory secondary education and typically below higher education (HE); it is sometimes referred to as post-compulsory education and includes both general and vocational educational courses. It is ‘typically below higher education' because many colleges of further education offer courses of HE, often in conjunction with institutions of HE.
FE includes learning at all levels from basic education and training to higher diplomas and can be full time, part time, academic and vocational. Most doctoral graduates are employed in the teaching and administration in FE. Most FE is provided by colleges, including those providing specialist training and as well as sixth form colleges. To complicate still further, sixth form colleges may be independent institutions or attached to secondary schools. However it can also include work-based learning provision and adult and community providers.
Around 3.4m people are educated or trained through colleges every year, with 38% of entrants to higher education coming from the sector. 168,000 students a year study in the sector for higher education qualifications [College Key Facts, Summer 2010].
As of 2010, there were just over 265,000 staff working in FE in the UK, 140,000 of whom were teachers and lecturers [College Key Facts, Summer 2010]. In 2010, there were 487 UK FE institutions [Data from Association of Colleges, 2011].