This article describes and explains the origin and approach of a major research project investigating learning in further education (FE). The Transforming Learning Cultures in FE project (TLC) is part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s Teaching and Learning Research Programme (TLRP). The project is a partnership between four universities and four FE colleges. It takes a broadly social and relational view of learning, and explores the complex interrelationships between a wide range of factors, in 16 very varied ‘learning sites’. The article also introduces the other contributions to this Special Issue, and contextualises them in relation to the IICMR project as a whole.