Alumni profile

Dr. Gillian McFarland

Doing Policy in Further Education: An exploration of the enactment of the GCSE Resit Policy in Further Education Colleges in England

Year: 2020

Louis Volante and Mark Bevir


This research examines how high-stakes education policy is enacted in Further Education colleges in England. Anchored in three key pillars from the empirical and theoretical literature – sociological institutionalism (DiMaggio & Powell, 1983), the concept of policy enactment, whereby policies are translated from texts into actions (Ball et al., 2012), and education standards (Stobart, 2001; Volante, 2004; Perryman et al., 2011) – the study uses qualitative methods to explore and explain how underpinning cultural scripts, attitudes, contexts and policy levers influence the enactment of the GCSE resits policy. The findings uncover a high degree of “disaffected consent” (Braun & Maguire, 2018, p. 8; Gilbert, 2015) and performance-oriented practices, which the thesis suggests can be explained by the notion of (constructed) coercive isomorphism and by positioning enactment as an inherently ‘bounded’ concept, the shape of which is influenced by local actor and organisational contexts. The research fills gaps in the existing literature by focusing on an understudied policy area (Dalby & Noyes, 2018), testing and adapting existing ‘tools’ of enactment researchers (Ball et al., 2012) and reflecting more broadly on the concept of how and why policies become translated from text to action and the implications that this process can have for policymakers, practitioners and the public.

Selected publications by Gillian McFarland