popup colleges costa coffee uk FE (1)

Pop Up Colleges – A trend that is here to stay?

Dynamic start-up pairs FE providers with adults eager to learn in an offbeat setting.

A new trend is emerging across the country, as ‘pop up Colleges’ are giving adults an opportunity to learn a variety of new skills in non-traditional environments. Designed to be welcoming, accessible and affordable, pop up Colleges are filling a gap in the UK’s FE market.

The PopUp College initiative was founded by entrepreneur Jason Elsom. It offers learners the chance to study a range of qualifications, including GCSEs, introductory language courses and English (Esol). The PopUp initiative has so far partnered with 15 FE Colleges and independent learning providers who manage the process, provide the teaching staff and decide which programmes to offer, while Costa offers use of its coffee shops for free.

A pop-up Italian language class held at a Costa Coffee? It may sound unorthodox, but for dozens of attendees in East Putney, it is working out great. Students gather with an instructor, sip lattes and practice their budding Italian language skills. While the shop is closed to the public, a convivial and informal atmosphere makes this a world away from a traditional classroom environment.

Since 2010, funding for more traditional adult education Colleges has been slashed. For the courses that don’t lead to an official qualification, the budget has been reduced by over 40 percent. Long gone are the days when learning the Italian language (or pottery, or taking a drama class) came for free or at a discount.

Thankfully, these pop-up Colleges can help to fill the gap, and they show no sign of slowing down. PopUp College is a UK-wide initiative that helps individuals connect to pop up College courses around the country. By partnering with FE providers and Costa Coffee they are making high-quality instruction available and highly accessibly in a variety of less orthodox locales.

Whether people want to bolster their English language competency, take a life drawing class or gain new business skills, PopUp College offers an impressive array of options at really reasonable rates.

Many people interviewed in this Guardian article on the topic claim that the informal nature of a pop-up class is the real selling point. Spending time at a Costa is far less intimidating than entering a College building, and a lack of exams means that the pressure is off. Students can relax and learn at their own pace without worries of the stress that exams can bring, particularly if they have been out of education for many years.

While it is a real shame that the government has seen fit to cut subsidies in the first place, the pop up Colleges are filling a gap in the industry – and in the community – that needs to be filled. If your College has not already partnered with this scheme or a similar one, perhaps it is time to consider this option? Getting the local community engaged and helping people acquire new skills – it is a win/win situation.

Do you have thoughts on or experience with pop up Colleges in your area? Whether you agree that they are a good stopgap or you think that they are a waste of time and resources, have your say in the comment section below.

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