Co-design FE HE

Pathfinders progress

Jisc Pathfinders is an innovative programme designed to help Higher Education (HE) and Further Education (FE) institutions tackle some of the most significant challenges in the education sector.  

The initiative, which launched in November 2022, invites institutions to partner with a small team at Jisc to develop and refine ideas using proven innovation pipeline techniques and sector-wide expertise. By partnering with us, and dedicating staff time to working on problems, institutions benefit from working with an experienced team of professionals. We are committed to developing and implementing innovative solutions to issues facing the education sector together.  

Pathfinders offer a unique opportunity for institutions to better understand what’s holding them back, transform their ideas into reality and create tangible benefits for students and staff alike.

What have we been working on? 

Since its launch, our team has collaborated with HE and FE institutions and groups across the UK on a diverse range of challenges. The team has helped refine, research, validate and develop both initial ideas and more developed concepts through our proven innovation process and design thinking approach.  

Outline of the Pathfinder process

The areas that have been raised by institutions include, student enrolment and induction, campus occupancy, energy use and SMART campus, curriculum re-design and personalisation, authentic assessment, digital strategy implementation, student experience focus, student engagement, digital wellbeing, assessment spaces/digital exams, micro-credentials and developing wider skills. 

Flexible Approach to Supporting Institutions 

We recognise that every institution is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective. Therefore, we offer a flexible approach to support institutions based on their specific needs and circumstances. We understand that some institutions may prefer to engage with us face-to-face, while others may only have time to participate in a virtual workshop. 

Our on-site workshops provide an excellent opportunity for institutions to work closely with our team over several days. During the workshops, institutions can share their ideas and receive feedback in real time from our experts. Our team helps staff from institutions refine, research, and validate their ideas, as well as develop an action plan to turn these ideas into a reality. 

For institutions that prefer a virtual workshop, we ensure that institutions receive access to the same expertise, regardless of their location, using interactive online tools and workspaces. 

Map showing all UK Pathfinder engagement

Case study 1 

Staff at North West Regional College (NWRC) sought to investigate the feasibility of introducing micro-credentials as a means of mitigating unemployment in the regions where they have campuses, namely Derry/Londonderry, Limavady, and Strabane. This area experiences a higher economic inactivity rate than both the Northern Ireland and UK average, resulting in significant numbers of the working-age population being excluded from the labour market. This situation has contributed to various social and economic challenges, including poverty, social exclusion, and a lack of economic development in the region.  

After several problem exploration discussions, the Pathfinder team met virtually with NWRC for a problem-framing workshop. We focussed on how micro-credentials may have a role to play in supporting skills development by offering an informal supported route into FE. According to preliminary research conducted by our team, micro-credentials are more commonly offered in higher education than in further education. Therefore, we plan to create guidance jointly with NWRC and other Northern Ireland colleges on considerations for implementing micro-credentials in further education settings. 

Case study 2  

The Institute of Technology (West of England), a partnership with several educational institutions including the University of the West of England (UWE), Weston College and Yeovil College, is working with us to explore integrating authentic opportunities to develop and recognize students’ wider skills into the curriculum.  

We met UWE, Weston College and Yeovil College staff at our offices in Bristol for two days to discuss the development of versatile students, focusing on learning delivery flexibility, curriculum modularisation, and the IoT intention to create a wider person. The group researched, discussed, and created “How Might We” statements around developing and recognising wider skills by involving employers and other education partners. A scoping canvas was used to explore the challenge, assess its importance, describe the current user journey, state underlying assumptions, list unknowns and questions, and refer to information on related initiatives and resources.  

Our Pathfinder team are currently conducting interviews alongside the FE and HE partners with sector and industry experts and students to understand their thoughts and needs, and to identify opportunities. We expect to feed the findings into an ideation stage to generate ideas and solutions to support the IoT in its implementation.  


We welcome expressions of interest and partnership opportunities connected to the challenges and case studies mentioned above, or any other topics. If you would like to be involved in a similar partnership, contact us at We’d also like to hear from you is you are experiencing similar issues locally and can provide insight for the ongoing projects. 

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