Transforming Lives and Communities

Funded and commissioned by the University and College Union (UCU), this project used digital technologies and interviewed teachers, students and more to illustrate the important work that colleges do.

transforming lives large


  • Rob Smith
  • Vicky Duckworth, Edge Hill University 

Research background

This research was commissioned by UCU as part of a broader campaign to raise the profile of further education nationally and focus on colleges not just as a producers of human capital but rather, as important community resources.

Research aims

In particular, the research aimed to uncover and publicise stories of transformative teaching and learning.  This involved interviewing adults and young people about their learning experiences in colleges and how many of them experienced success as learners in ways that transformed their lives, leading to personal development and improved employment opportunities.

We also interviewed teachers, employers and parents to illustrate how the benefits of further educational achievement are rarely confined to the individual but have a ripple effect into families and communities.

How is the research being carried out?

The research was carried out using digital technologies. We video recorded all the interviews and then edited these and shared them through a project website. These videos were then shared via a project twitter account. In addition, we invited the project audience to contribute their own stories of transformative teaching and learning direct to the website.


University and College Union, £66,607


AE gathered upwards of 100 narratives from teachers, students, parents, employers and others. These stories illustrate the powerful and important work that colleges do.  We also illuminated the factors that impact on colleges’ ability to sustain transformative teaching and learning: funding in particular presents a barrier, but also the instability created by centralised policy churn and the inability of colleges to act strategically on their local knowledge.

A summative report on this project was published in July 2019.  


  •  Duckworth, V., Husband, G. and Rob Smith, 2018. "Adult Education, transformation and social justice", Education + Training, 60: 6, pp.502-504, 
  • Duckworth, V. and Smith, R. 2018. "Breaking the triple lock: further education and transformative teaching and learning", Education & Training, 60: 6 pp. 529-543 -
  • Duckworth, V. and Smith, R. 2017. “Further Education in England: Transforming lives and communities – interim report”, online