Further education (FE) has traditionally been a rather unspectacular activity. Lacking the visibility of schools or the prestige of universities, for the vast majority of its existence FE has had a relatively low profile on the margins of English education. Over recent years this situation has altered significantly and further education has undergone profound change. This paper argues that a combination of related factors - neo-liberalism, globalisation, and dominant discourses of the knowledge economy - has acted in synergy to transform FE into a highly performative and marketised sector. Against this backdrop, further education has been assigned a particular role based upon certain narrow and instrumental understandings of skill, employment and economic competitiveness. The paper argues that, although it has always been predominantly working class in nature, FE is now, more than ever, positioned firmly at the lower end of the institutional hierarchy in the highly class-stratified terrain of English education.