VET and HRD research in European countries > Overview

United Kingdom  [5]  Funding framework of VET/HRD research

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Major streams of research funding have tended to structure the foci of the research activity. The chief drivers have been:
The research programme sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The ESRC’s work covers the whole of the UK, for the last five years these programmes have included: Learning Society; Teaching and Learning Programme (budget Euro 25.2 million); Future of Work; Evolution of Business Knowledge; Advanced Institute of Management. ESRC also funds some individual VET research projects outside these programmes, as well as research centres (for example, the ESRC Centre on Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE run by Oxford and Warwick Universities). Some government departments/agencies sponsor VET policies and fund research on skills:

The Treasury. Traditionally a finance ministry, but now with growing interest in competitiveness issues, and a set of policy teams that ‘shadow’ the work of other government departments. For example, the Treasury has its own team on VET for the 14-19 age group. The Treasury determines the funding of public sector activity and sets the performance targets for the other government departments and agencies.

Department of Trade and Industry. Responsible for competitiveness issues, employee relations and labour market regulation, and managerial skills. It has its own skills research programme.

Department for Work and Pensions. Responsible for social inclusion, and the integration of unemployed and labour force.

Department for Education and Skills. Traditionally the main sponsor of VET research in England. It has established its own research centres on wider benefits of learning, and the economics of education.

Learning and Skills Council. Responsible for funding and planning post-compulsory education and training (except higher education), with a major skills planning function. Reports to DfES. Commissions much research on future skill needs, including National Employers Skills Survey.

Quality Improvement Agency and Learning and Skills Network (formerly Learning and Skills Development Agency ) undertake syntheses of research and commission work from other researchers. QIA sponsors ‘action research’ projects by practitioners, especially within the Further Education sector.

Sector Skills Development Agency. The body that superintends the Skills for Business network of newly established Sector Skills Councils. The SSDA has a major research programme, which covers issues such as a sectoral level skills forecasting and planning, the links between skills and high performance work organisation, and the evidence base on the returns to employers from investment in skill acquisition.

Regional Development Agencies and Regional Observatories/Regional Intelligence Units. The English regions now each have their own RDA, and attached to this, a research arm that aims to provide data and analysis to support the development of social and economic policies within the region. A considerable volume of this work related to skills (for more details, visit The ESRC and government agencies have been investing significant amounts of money in planning and developing more coherent and comprehensive large-scale data sets covering VET and a range of allied social and economic issues. Some of these are cohort studies that allow individuals to be tracked over time as their educational and subsequent employment histories unfold.

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Source: Cedefop - National Research Report United Kingdom (details see Bibliography)
Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO