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Adult education and funding – where are we going wrong?

Adult education can have a hugely positive impact on people’s lives and on the communities where they live. But funding cuts in recent years have left education providers less able to offer the learning that people want and need. So, where are we going wrong?

In this episode, Janet Smith, Chief Executive Officer and Principal of Nottingham College, and Shane Chowen, Editor of FE Week, try to get to grips with this question. Their conversation provides plenty of food for thought on the purpose of education, the flaws in the current system, and what needs to change.


About Janet Smith

Janet Smith is Chief Executive Officer and Principal of Nottingham College, having joined the college in July 2022.

Her career in education has spanned more than 35 years, mostly in further education, with nine years as a university lecturer and two years in a strategic regional role within the FE sector.

As a teacher and manager Janet has developed, delivered and led a wide range of programmes, including apprenticeships, academic and vocational learning, degrees and masters programmes, and research projects. Over the course of her career, she has worked in eight very different FE colleges and has been the senior lead for curriculum and quality in three, securing significant improvement in performance. She has been a CEO since 2015.

As someone who has benefited from a college education herself, Janet is a passionate advocate for further education, the opportunities it creates for learners of all backgrounds, and the improved life chances on offer through education and training in a college environment.


About Shane Chowen

Shane took an interest in further education policy while studying A levels at his local FE college 18 years ago, and has worked in a range of policy, campaigning and representative roles ever since. He was the Vice President (Further Education) at the National Union of Students during the 2010 General Election and helped lead the largest mobilisation of students seen in a generation. Since then he’s led on public affairs for adult education body Learning and Work Institute and worked closely with around 50 colleges as the Midlands Area Director at the Association of Colleges.

Outside of work, Shane served on the board at Capital City College Group, overseeing two mergers to form one of the country’s largest college groups and chaired the board’s quality and standards committee.

He is now editor of FE Week, a weekly newspaper and online news service, where he leads a team of reporters covering further education, skills and apprenticeships.



  • Download the transcript for this episode here.