A Private Function: independent providers of vocational education and training in post-war England

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This paper focuses on independent training providers (ITPs)–in other words, private companies–as suppliers of vocational education and training in post-war England. Whilst acknowledging the central role of further education (FE) colleges in delivering vocational learning, it draws attention to a large, diverse sector of ITPs operating alongside FE colleges, particularly during the 1960s and 1970s. Data suggest that around 15–20% of vocational learners were enrolled as fee-paying customers with private providers at that time–a figure broadly similar to today. There are, it is argued, three related reasons for this. First, the post-war policy environment, and the varied and uneven nature of colleges at that time, allowed significant room for ITPs to operate as alternative providers of vocational education. Second, the far-reaching ‘efficiency’ gains required since FE colleges left local authority control have largely attenuated the space in which ITPs previously operated. Third, neoliberal assumptions about the superiority of private enterprise mean that ITPs now receive significant funding from the state, largely to deliver Apprenticeships and other programmes of work-related learning–which has, somewhat perversely, reduced the incentive for them to act as bone fide commercial providers of a broader range of vocational learning.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Studies
Early online date28 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 May 2024

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