An analysis of programme decision-making in further education colleges in England

  • Daisy Walsh

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


The programme provision in a third of further education (FE) colleges in England is poorly designed, according to Ofsted which inspect colleges in England, and does not provide post-16-year-olds the skills needed for employment. The policy landscape shapes the complex FE college environment. Often programme decision-making at strategic level does not respond to stakeholders’ needs or achieve stability and sustainability of these institutions.The aim of this research was to analyse programme decision-making in FE colleges in England. It focused on how FE colleges use the opportunities and constraints presented by their locality and context to tailor their programme provision whilst under pressure to meet the local needs for the provision of education and training and the expectations of the Ofsted inspection framework.A review of literature on the theories and models of decision-making led to the formation of research questions and a framework for the analysis of programme decision-making in FE college environment. Empirical data was collected by means of college principals and other senior managers in three contrasting FE colleges in England. Documentary analysis provided stimulus for interview questions and corroboration of evidence.The research found that programme decision-making is influenced by the opportunities and constraints presented by the locality of the FE college and a number of internal and external factors. It shows that FE leaders and managers who prioritise leadership for learning, which is characterised by a strong focus on learners’ learning experience, implement management approaches to the organisation of programme provision. Such focus informs the strategic directions to achieve effectiveness of programme provision and accountability, increase engagement with stakeholders and improve the sustainability of the college. The study shows that effective programme decision-making requires a collaborative approach involving the participation of stakeholders to provide a solution-driven method to managing programme provision in FE colleges.
Date of Award14 May 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorChris James (Supervisor)


  • Leadership and management
  • Leadership for Learning
  • further education colleges
  • Programme decision-making
  • Programme provision
  • Ofsted
  • Stakeholders

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