With the dust beginning to settle after last week’s General Election, now is perhaps an opportune time to take a look at some of the main concerns within the FE sector, and to make a few suggestions as to how Colleges might deal with the most pressing issues. Over three short pieces, we will be covering the following issues: funding cuts, skills, and apprenticeships.
This article in FE Week contains a number of comments by leaders of the sector which provide a good barometer of the current mood amongst senior managers within colleges. Unsurprisingly, the comments all express concern about possible future cuts and the effect they might have on the sector. Here are just three:
“After offering our congratulations to the new Government, our message is simple – if you want to boost this country’s economy, then the education and training provided by colleges, whether technical and professional or academic, is essential. We are deeply concerned that the Conservatives were the only main party not to pledge to ringfence funding for 16 to 18-year-olds. This leaves college students extremely vulnerable to further cuts and we appeal to the Prime Minister to think again before risking the education and training opportunities of thousands of young people.”
Martin Doel, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges
“There are now real risks from further spending cuts, but we will be strongly demonstrating the undoubted contribution of FE to the economy in a way that we hope will be hard to resist within the Treasury.”
Lynne Sedgemore, Executive Director, 157 Group
“The government set out plans for some very dangerous cuts ahead of the election and the sector reacted in unity against them. The return of a Conservative majority means the sector must redouble its efforts in making the case for FE.”
Spokesman for the University and College Union
The fact that funding cuts have hurt the sector comes through in each of these comments, as does a sense of foreboding that there might be more to come. However, even though there is a clear concern, the sector must of course live within the parameters decreed by government policy and must work out ways of dealing with it.
A possible chink of light is offered by Lynne Sedgemore and the UCU spokesman. Both emphasise the need for the sector to prove its worth, in order to make the Government think very carefully about introducing more cuts. Whilst they are perhaps referring to the plans of their own organisations to persuade the Government of the worth of the sector to the economy, the same principle can very much be applied to individual colleges.
The issue can be stated like this: If there is a smaller pool of funding out there, how do you position your college to make sure that it is in with a good shout of getting the funding you need? One important answer is – as Lynne Sedgemore and the UCU spokesman rightly see – to prove your value.
In other words, if there is a smaller pot of money out there, the Colleges that are going to be most successful in ensuring they get a good chunk of this money are the ones who can actively demonstrate that they are having a major impact on their local economy.
This is where an Economic Impact Study can be of inestimable value. By quantifying the value your college has on its local economy, you have the evidence to make a compelling case for receiving increased funding (For more details of how we carry out our studies, see our recent five-part series here).
One of the best examples of a college that has used their Impact Study in this way is East Durham College. Last year, the College applied for funding to redevelop their Houghall Campus, as part of the Government’s Growth Deals. The application was successful, and the College received £10,000,000 in funds from The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
An important part of their bid was the use of their Economic Impact Study results. By quantifying the value they were already bringing to the local community, the College was able to make the case that a refurbished campus would bring even more benefits to the local economy. You can read the full case study by clicking on the image to the right.
With the new Government having pledged in their manifesto to “deliver more bespoke Growth Deals with Local Councils… and back Local Enterprise Partnerships to promote jobs and growth,” the relationships that Colleges forge with these bodies is likely to become even more crucial in the future. In addition to providing evidence for funding bids, the value of an Economic Impact Study is its ability to demonstrate the massive value colleges bring to their local economy, therefore giving them “a seat at the table” with local economic development bodies.
Funding is clearly set to be a big issue in the FE sector over the next few years, as is the way colleges interact with their LEPs and local authorities. By providing solid evidence of the value they bring to their local economy, colleges can not only position themselves near the front of the queue to receive whatever funding is available, they can also work towards improving and strengthening their strategic dialogue with all the important local development organisations.
For more details about how our Economic Impact Study could help your college in its bids for more funds, contact Anthony Horne at firstname.lastname@example.org