Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance

Leadership in a world of change: Understandings of, and leadership strategies to deal with, emerging models of ‘localism’.

SKOPE, working in partnership with the Association of Colleges, is about to start a major new research project on the future of the FE system. FE is currently facing a ‘perfect storm’, in terms of both reductions in public funding, and also a welter of reforms and proposals for reform emanating from stakeholders at a variety of levels. This project, being undertaken via a collaboration between the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Centre for Skills, Knowledge and Organisational Performance (SKOPE) at the Department of Education, Oxford University seeks to explore one major strand within these developments – devolution and localism. The research is being funded by a grant from the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL).

Project aims:
The project has two aims:

  1. To explore how the leadership and governance teams in individual institutions, localities, the FE system more widely (including its many stakeholders), and the national bodies that superintend the system conceive of and make sense of localism, and how they identify and develop effective models of organisational strategy to support moves towards a more devolved, localised pattern of FE governance and funding. To then use this data to further understanding of how localism is developing across the system, and support the creation of new models of how best to deliver localism, for example, through the construction of scenarios of the different forms that localism might take.
  2. To identify the capabilities, theories, knowledge and expertise (individual and institutional) needed to underpin and develop effective organisational leadership and associated strategies, and think through how these might be better developed and delivered across the FE system and the other stakeholders involved.

We will be interviewing AoC members in three regions (the South West of England, Greater Manchester, and the Thames Valley) as well as involving AoC members nationwide via focus group, conference and seminar sessions, and the construction of a set of scenarios for how localism might play out within English FE.  The project will also interview national stakeholders who are active in the field – for example, BIS, SFA, EFA, and Ofsted.  We are keen to gather a wide range of perspectives on how localism is developing and where it should go next.

Intended outputs and benefits arising from the research:

  1. Scenarios for the future of localism, developed via con-construction with practitioners
  2. Research reports, seminars, workshops, webinars and conference presentations on the research.
  3. Training and development materials and opportunities to support the creation of the new skillsets (and supporting knowledge base) to enable managers and governors to make localism work
  4. Overview of the leadership and management development needs arising from the localism agenda


  1. A clearer picture of how localism is playing out in specific areas, and of the underlying trends and what is driving them.
  2. Enhanced knowledge and understanding among practitioners and policy makers of the implications of localism and how these might best be addressed, not least in terms of a greater role for FE in policy interventions around economic development, business support, progression and job enhancement.
  3. A framework for understanding how a balance between local and national priorities and policies can be negotiated and managed.
  4. Identification of training and development needs across the sector/system around localisation and the stimulation of new forms of provision to meet these.

The project will run from the start of September 2015 until the end of August 2016.


Issues Paper no.1

Research Paper no.1

Research Paper no.2


Researcher contact details:

Professor Ewart Keep, SKOPE, Department of Education, Oxford University, 15 Norham Gardens, Oxford, OX2 6PY

TELEPHONE: 01865 274045