The first wave of Area Reviews is about to come to an end, with the steering groups for the first wave of colleges due to give their recommendations shortly. These recommendations, and those given for subsequent waves, are expected to include some significant changes, including collaborations, mergers and even closures. All this is bound to come with significant costs, but in April the Minister for Skills announced that the Government would be offering grants of up to £100,000 for each significant change. According to Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ memo:
“The grants are to ensure providers can access the best change management skills and have the capacity to make the changes at the pace required. This will improve the likelihood of success of the significant changes. The grants will only be available for a time-limited period following the conclusion of an area review.”
Grants of up to £100,000 are available in the following cases:
- The closure of an individual college
- The merger of more than two institutions or of two institutions with a combined turnover of more than £25 million
- The establishment of a multi-academy trust of two or more colleges
Meanwhile, grants of up to £50,000 are available for the following:
- A single sixth form college conversion to a 16 to 19 academy
- The merger of two institutions with a combined turnover of less than £25 million
- Significant rationalisation or other significant change at a college or colleges where this change is reasonably expected to have significant upfront costs (including: significant curriculum rationalisation; set up of a shared services arrangement; or the establishment of a joint venture)
For many of these changes — especially mergers, collaborations and rationalisation — a successful outcome will depend to a large extent on how well colleges ensure they are meeting the needs of their local labour market. This was, after all, the crux of the document which established the area review process — Reviewing Post-16 Education and Training Institutions — which mentioned “raising productivity and economic growth” and “Better responsiveness to local employer needs and economic priorities” as being key to the process.
The availability of the transition grants to help with significant changes gives colleges some peace of mind in terms of immediate costs. However, the following question still arises: Even if we do take up the offer of a transition grant, how do we use it to navigate our way through these significant changes? In this two part series, we want to provide an answer to this question, firstly reviewing what some of the most important challenges might be, and then in Part 2 suggesting some practical solutions to these issues.
Understanding the Needs of Your Local Economy
“Raising productivity and economic growth”, along with “Better responsiveness to local employer needs and economic priorities”, can only come about with a thorough understanding of the local economy. Attempting to successfully respond to local employer needs and economic priorities without first understanding what they are is, to borrow a line from Winston Churchill, rather like standing in a bucket and trying to pull yourself up by the handle! Can’t be done. For colleges where a merger or collaboration is recommended, and for colleges where significant curriculum rationalisation is recommended, getting to grips with understanding the needs of the local economy will be crucial to a successful outcome. In Part 2, we’ll be looking at how our Local Economic Scan can help your college achieve this.
Understanding How Well Your Curriculum Meets Local Needs
If understanding the needs of the local economy (demand) is crucially important, so too is understanding how current curriculum provision is meeting these needs (supply). Again, this will apply to individual colleges requiring curriculum rationalisation, and to colleges that are merging or collaborating. The key to success will be to make changes in the right places, and colleges will need to avoid simply cutting certain courses because this will save the most money. True responsiveness to local needs requires a far more scientific approach, and that means undertaking a thorough assessment of where the curriculum is oversupplying the local economy, where it is undersupplying, and if there are other areas where perhaps there is no provision, but which could be tapped into. In Part 2, we’ll be explaining how our Curriculum Rationalisation consulting offer can help.
Understanding Your Local Economy and Curriculum Alignment in the Long-Term
Many of the recommendations made by the steering groups will require immediate, short-term solutions, such as the ones we have hinted at above. But what about in the longer term? Since local economies are continually changing and adapting, long-term success in the post-area review environment will require not just an immediate understanding of the local economy and how the curriculum meets those needs, but also a solution that enables colleges to do this on an ongoing basis. In Part 2, we’ll be explaining how our online market intelligence tool, Analyst, can provide such a solution, helping colleges to understand both their local economic needs and how well their curriculum meets these needs, year after year.
Articulating Your College’s Impact on the Local Economy
In many ways, the area review process can be said to draw a line in the sand for the sector. For the colleges that emerge at the other end of the process — whether those that carry on in their current form, or those that are newly merged — this may well be an opportune time to take stock of the impact the college is having on the local economy, or in the case of a merger, to articulate the combined impact of the new institution. Quantifying current impact is a great way of articulating the college’s importance to the local community, and also of laying down some benchmark figures, against which future performance can be measured to see how much progress the college is making towards its goal of meeting local needs. In Part 2, we’ll look at how our Economic Impact Study can be used by colleges to achieve this.
If you would like to discuss how we can help your college navigate through any significant changes recommended by your steering group, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org