Skills, labour markets and programme evaluation

Further Education: Social Mobility, Skills and Second Chances

For the past five years we have carried out a series of investigations with colleagues at the Education Datalab (Fischer Family Trust) that shed new light on the value of learning in Further Education (FE) in England, using matched ILR-WPLS administrative data (including, Thomson et. al., 2010; Buscha and Urwin, 2013; Bibby et. al., 2014; Cerqua and Urwin, forthcoming 2015a; 2015b; Bibby et. al., 2015; forthcoming 2015a; 2015b). This programme of analysis has uncovered good returns to learning at all levels of FE, and challenges the previous findings from survey-based studies that estimated insignificant, or even negative, returns to learning at Level 2 and below. There is a recognition that the ILR-WPLS administrative data overcomes many of the limitations faced by previous surveyed-based studies and in this latest of reports (below) we consider the role of Further Education in Social Mobility, Skills and Second Chances; with the CER Director, Professor Peter Urwin, providing an accompanying personal note of what he thinks the findings from this programme of work imply for policy.

We are very grateful to the Department for Business Innovation and Skills for access to the data and especially Adrian Jones, who has worked on development of the data for many years. We are also grateful to the Department for Education for data access.

Most of the reports produced in this programme of research have been commissioned by BIS (though this is not true of the latest report below), and we also thank the 157 Group for financial support.

Please note that the views expressed in this report, or any others as part of this series, are those of the authors, and are not necessarily supported by any of the funders of research.

Social mobility research

Dr Franz Buscha has been awarded a highly prestigious ESRC grant to examine trends in intergenerational mobility in England and Wales. Over a period of 18 months Franz will be working jointly with Professor Patrick Sturgis (Southampton) to analyse Census data to see how social mobility has developed since the 1970s. Their proposal was deemed excellent with a high potential for academic and policy impact and was strongly supported by the Sutton Trust and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office.

Housing policy in high-density global cities: a cost benefit model of sub-market rental accommodation in Central London

Peter Urwin has been awarded an important contract by the Dolphin Square Foundation (DSF). DSF provides good quality, affordable homes for people in Central London whose work is particularly valuable to the local economy. The project will provide DSF with estimates of the costs and benefits of their approach to the supply of affordable housing (through rental agreements), compared to alternatives that exist in the market at present.

Working with HMRC

In providing Econometric support to staff in KAI (HMRC, 2010-2014) we have developed a deep understanding of the specific challenges faced by HMRC staff tasked with evaluation in the areas of, for instance, SDLT and Income tax; estimates of elasticity in models of Tobacco and Alcohol consumption; and we have also been involved in supporting HMRC staff to tackle the challenges they face in evaluating programmes aimed at SMEs, for instance, gauging the impact of Venture Capital Trusts (VCT) and the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS). In all of this we have supported staff in their interpretation of quantitative evaluation evidence to inform decisions over policy impacts.

We have also delivered the (very well received) sessions for senior HMRC staff on the Use of Evidence and Analysis in Decision-Making (2009). These sessions for senior HMRC staff were delivered across the country, in Manchester, Newcastle, Birmingham and London, with 94 percent of participants agreeing that the course was ‘very good’ or ‘good’. The discussions with operational staff, as well as those tasked with policy, have provided us with further insight into the workings of HMRC and the subject-specific knowledge required to effectively support development of evidence-based evaluation.

Employment relations and employee voice

Managing conflict and resolving disputes: synthesising research and practice to inform policy

Professor Peter Urwin has been successful in a bid to the ESRC, led by Dr Richard Saundry (UCLAN), to fund an ESRC seminar series.

In September 2013 academic year we brought together over 100 people from the policy, practice and academic worlds to synthesis research, practice and policy. The event was an enormous success, with David Lipsky (Cornell), John Forth (NIESR) and Ed Sweeney (Acas) delivering keynotes, and helping to further strengthen the reputation of WBS in this area of research. This was the final event in a series of six and brought together academics, practitioners and policymakers to examine the themes that have emerged during the series. There was wide representation, from major public and private sector employers; employer-representative organisations such as the CBI, FSB and CIPD; TUC and major trade unions; and governmental and policymaking organisations (such as Acas).

Equality and diversity

Leading the way: increasing diversity in the scientific workforce

On 9 October 2013 Angela Wright, Sylvia Snyders and Peter Urwin met representatives of the Royal Society to discuss the work we are doing on the Royal Society’s programme, Leading the way: increasing diversity in the scientific workforce. The feedback was very positive, and Angela is doing a great job of leading this project focused in the department of HRM. What is the evidence on the business case for equality and diversity?

This project, commissioned by BIS and the Government Equalities Office (GEO), reviews the extensive evidence on a business case for equality and diversity. This has been a highly successful project, generating a lot of interest, and no small amount of debate. We were tasked with providing a dispassionate systematic review, developing a clear theoretical framework for consideration of such evidence, and presenting our findings in various forums. This is (rightly) a highly emotive subject and there are many studies that do not take a dispassionate approach.

BIS and GEO are now using this work as the basis for taking forward a large part of the UK diversity and equality agenda. One of the issues they are now dealing with is the potentially far-reaching implications of our findings for policy.

A study of workplace bullying

Cecilie Bingham, Tricia Dawson and Elisabeth Michielsens formed the UK research team for this international project, which focused on conflict management in SMEs.

The Norwegian model ‘The Bully-Free Workplace’ was used successfully by large enterprises in Scandinavia in the prevention of harassment and bullying at work. This project sought to adapt the model for use in SMEs in and outside the Scandinavian context. The project was funded by the European Commission, Leonardo da Vinci Programme (transfer of innovation) and with partners in Norway (co-ordinator), Hungary, Lithuania and Spain. In each country the partners have implemented this anti-bullying model in pilot organisations, with appropriate workplace training and development.