DfE's role in further education

The Department for the Economy (DfE) is responsible for the policy, strategic development and financing of the statutory further education sector.

Further Education Means Success

The further education strategy has been published entitled Further Education Means Success.

Applying for courses and support

If you want to see what courses are available, apply for a course, or find out about what support is available, all the information is on the further education pages at nidirect.

Read more on further education training opportunities for employers on nibusinessinfo.co.uk website.

Other responsibilities

The Department is also responsible for curriculum and qualifications below degree level, with a key focus on the development of adult literacy.

Statutory further education sector

The strategic objectives of the further education sector are:

  • to support regional economic development and, in particular, to provide the skills necessary for the knowledge-based economy
  • to increase participation and widen access to those previously under-represented in the sector
  • to improve the quality of provision and enhance standards of performance

The Department of Education's Education and Training Inspectorate provides for inspections of FE colleges in relation to the quality of teaching and learning.


Further education colleges are non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). Management responsibility lies with each individual college’s governing body. 

The range of courses provided by colleges span essential skills, a wide range of vocational and academic programmes at levels 2 and 3 and higher education programmes.

Students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities

Under the Special Educational Needs and Disability (NI) Order 2005 (SENDO), Further Education (FE) colleges are required to make reasonable adjustments for students with learning difficulties and / or disabilities (SLDD) to enable access to FE provision.

The Department facilitates the FE colleges to fulfil this obligation through the Funding for students with a learning difficulty and/or disability.

The Special Educational Needs and Disability (Educational Institutions) (Alteration of Leasehold Premises) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005

Under the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2005, regulations were made governing the relationship between educational institutions and landlords when, under provisions contained in the Order, adjustments have to be made to leased premises.

Disability Discrimination Code of Practice for Further and Higher Education

The Disability Discrimination Code of Practice for Further and Higher Education was issued by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland under section 54A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

The Code provides practical guidance for further and higher education institutions on how to avoid committing acts which are unlawful under, and other matters relating to, the operation of Part III Chapter II, Further and Higher Education, of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (Northern Ireland) Order 2005. There is also a Disability Discrimination Code of Practice for Schools.

More useful FE publications

Our circulars

Copies of circulars issued to further education colleges by the department can be found in our publications section

Statistics and research

Statistics and research on further education in Northern Ireland is available at:

Related to DfE's role in further education

Access to information

How to request information from the Department for the Economy including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

Back to top