Subcontracted Further Education in England: a case study of a private provider

Bourne, Darren (2019) Subcontracted Further Education in England: a case study of a private provider. EdD thesis, University of Nottingham.

[img] PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Repository staff only - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (4MB)


Further Education (FE) is under-researched and not well understood, but subcontracted FE is virtually invisible, despite being a significant part of the sector: subcontracting accounted for around £800m, or 8% of the national FE spend, in 2016/17. This study gives voice to managers inside a subcontracted private provider, a near-silent part of the turbulent FE sector.

In the early 1990’s, Kirsten established Midvotech, a private Further Education provider subcontracted to a local college. Years later, Midvotech was part of a thriving group of businesses; Kirsten was MD and I was leading the education provision and was generously allowed privileged access to my workplace as a research site. This is the account of the revelatory case study of Midvotech, inflected by my somewhat contradictory leader-insider-researcher status.

Data was collected between 2013 and 2017 and managers cast Midvotech as a highly contradictory, agile, and fast-paced organisation. Midvotech had high expectations of them, but they were permitted high levels of agency as managers. Both organisational agility and individuals’ agency were positive manifestations of the “terrors” of neoliberal performativity, a term used by an educational theorist who exemplified a policy view of the educational landscape and was highly critical of privatisation in education, Stephen Ball.

Challenging the dominant policy view of FE, the philosophy of Alain Badiou is employed to re-explore Midvotech. Rooted in an intuition early in the research, the lens of Badiou provokes new ways of thinking Midvotech’s contradictions. Governance and power relationships are illuminated by re-casting Kirsten and those around her as Badiouian subjects.

Although Midvotech is an outlier, its inclusion in FE enriches a sector best defined by the difference it incorporates. Following this argument, the contribution of the Midvotech study serves to inform a more positive potential future for FE.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (EdD)
Supervisors: McGrath, Simon
McLean, Monica
Keywords: Adult Education, Further Education, FE, Subcontracting, Education, Private Enterprise, Free Enterprise, Badiou, Insider, Leadership, Poststructuralist
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 56052
Depositing User: Bourne, Darren
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2019 12:24
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 14:15

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View