Five: Further and higher education and skills

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This chapter analyses spending, outputs and outcomes in relation to further education and skills in England between 2007/8 and 2014/5, as well as policies and trends relating to access to higher education. Expenditure on further education and adult skills training was heavily cut by the Coalition government, after expansion under Labour. Numbers of learners fell and there was no progress in closing socio-economic gaps. Controversial measures to treble university tuition fees did not result in a fall in the proportions of young people going to university or to widening socio-economic gaps, although part time and mature student participation suffered ‘precipitous falls’. The chapter concludes that despite modest progress towards increasing quality and employer engagement, there remain substantial concerns about the post-16 learning and skills system in England and its capacity either to promote increased productivity or greater social justice.

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