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Mathematics in Further Education Colleges (MiFEC)

Researchers: Professor Andrew Noyes | Dr. Diane Dalby ...

Project overview

This project aims to produce robust, evidence-based advice for policymakers, college managers and practicioners on the critically important issue of how to improve the quality of mathematics education in England’s Further Education (FE) colleges.

Mathematics education remains a high priority for governments across the world. Evidence of the links between mathematics qualifications, employability and earnings is well documented. Yet, poor levels of adult numeracy, success rates at GCSE and comparatively low participation in post-16 mathematics continue to concern policymakers, employers and other stakeholders.

In recent years, a great deal of policy and research attention has centred on advanced post-16 mathematics. This project will focus instead on mathematics within vocational pathways in FE colleges in England, with a particular emphasis on the progression of those with low attainment at GCSE.

The project will produce the following:

  • A ‘state of the art’ review of relevant research and grey literature.
  • Analyses of students’ mathematical progression and outcomes in FE using the latest administrative datasets (the Individualised Learner Record) and panel surveys (Next Steps).
  • Institutional case studies and analyses to explore how FE colleges have responded to policy and funding changes, to provide a more in-depth understanding of how these may impact curriculum provision, learner pathways, workforce training and development needs.

The project takes a multi-scale view of this complex system, using a mixed-methods research design to investigate the interlinking factors that shape the mathematics learning experiences and trajectories of young people, the intersection of their mathematical and vocational learning, and the ways that policies and practices are enacted in FE colleges.

Latest on this project


  • Professor Andrew Noyes
    University of Nottingham
  • Dr. Diane Dalby
    University of Nottingham
  • Dr. Michael Adkins
    University of Nottingham

  • Cheryl Lloyd
    Programme Head, Education
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Education
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.