Our history | NCFE

What can we help you find?

Our history

Screenshot 2023 09 07 At 10.51.44

NCFE was born over 175 years ago back in 1848, from the belief that no learner should be left behind – and this same purpose continues to drive us today.  

How did it all start? 

NCFE can trace our record of working with colleges and other training providers back to our founding organisation, the Northern Union of Mechanics’ Institutes (NUMI), established in 1848. 

NCFE’s earliest incarnation held lofty ambitions. Its first report declared its intention to "become a centre from whence the elements of knowledge and civilisation shall go on with an unceasing progress, conferring intellectual, scientific and moral blessings throughout the length and breadth of the Northern Counties." 

From 1920, the Northern Counties Technical Examinations Council (NCTEC or ‘Northern Counties’ as it became affectionately known) supplanted NUMI and, supported by nine Northern Local Education Authorities, provided examinations for technical colleges, schools and other centres for over sixty years until 1981. 

Establishing NACFE and the Northern Council for Further Education

The Northern Advisory Council for Further Education (NACFE) was established in 1947 to co-ordinate further education provision throughout the nine LEAs. In 1981, NACFE merged with the NCTEC to become the Northern Council for Further Education. 

When the further education sector was incorporated (made independent of the government) in the early 1990s, the organisation felt the old name was incompatible with our new national and international focus and since then, we’ve been identified simply as NCFE – with the letters no longer being an acronym. 

We are NCFE 

During recent years, we’ve also made several acquisitions to ensure that our customers benefit from a broad and well-rounded set of solutions to support their learning needs. In 2015, we acquired the leading awarding organisation in early years and childcare CACHE; in 2021, the skills diagnostic assessment tools from Skills Forward; and in 2022, the marketing-leading sports and fitness awarding organisation, Active IQ. 

We also welcomed Campaign for Learning into NCFE in 2019 – an educational charity that continues to operate independently to achieve our shared core purpose of promoting lifelong learning. 

NCFE's main office, Q6

Today, NCFE is the educational charity and leader in vocational and technical learning committed to powering a smarter education eco-system. We bring together over 175 years of education experience with real insight into how people learn and a network of expert collaborators to drive change in the education sector and shape smarter solutions. 

In doing this, we’re working for a fairer education system for all learners – one that improves the choices they have and empowers the choices they make. 

NCFE colleagues talking at an all staff event

NCFE colleagues at an all staff event