From education to employment

National leaders of further education (NLFE) finance specialists: guidance for potential applicants


To apply to be a national leader of further education (NLFE) finance specialist you must:

be a serving finance director of a general or specialist further education college or sixth-form college in England with a rating of good or outstanding for both quality and financial health
have been a tier 2 finance director for approximately 3 years or more at the point of application (reporting directly to the CEO or principal)

Your college must not be in intervention.

Assessment process

Your application will be assessed including a review of your:

skills and professional qualifications
track record
Ofsted inspection reports
data that Department for Education (DfE) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) hold on institutions in which you have served

There will be an initial paper-based sift. Short-listed candidates will be invited to an interview and scenario-based exercise.

We will consider factors relevant to the objectives of the NLFE programme in making a decision. For example, geographical distribution and a range of experience across all NLFEs to best match the improvement needs of colleges.


To apply to become an NLFE finance specialist:

NLFE provide mentoring and support to colleges as part of the active support outlined in the College oversight: support and intervention guidance.

The NLFE programme aims to engage and mobilise outstanding leaders within the further education sector to work with their peers in supporting improvement, to secure the best possible outcomes for learners at all colleges.

Participation in the NLFE programme offers principles and finance directors the opportunity to:

develop additional skills through leading improvement projects
work with other NLFEs as part of an active improvement network
transfer learning and experience from both, back to their home college

Designation as an NLFE  helps colleges to attract good quality staff and build strong relationships with employers.

The role of an NLFE finance specialist

NLFEs determine how they deliver support and tailor their work to fit the needs of the college they are supporting. If appropriate, this could include involving other members of the NLFE’s college staff (for example management information systems, human resources or estates) to provide support. An NLFE finance specialist might, for example:

work with the finance director, and leadership team of the supported college to identify financial improvement needs, and potential sources of support
work alongside key members of the finance team on the delivery of specific financial improvement programmes

The department will match NLFE finance specialists to colleges that have requested financial support or where a need has been identified by the FE Commissioner. This includes contributing to the department’s Curriculum Efficiency and Financial Sustainability Support (CEFFS) programme

NLFE finance specialists may work to support improvement within their own region, or with a college in a neighbouring region, where issues around competition between the relevant institutions are less likely to arise.

Each year, an NLFE finance specialist will be expected to commit approximately 10 days to their role. The time commitment involved in delivery of a deployment will vary according to the nature of the improvement activities involved.


Funding for work as an NLFE comes from:

an annual bursary
the supported college

An annual bursary

DfE provides the NLFE’s home institution with an annual bursary that can be used to cover costs associated with the NLFE finance specialist role. The value of the bursary is £15K per annum. The costs covered through the bursary can include, for example:

travel for meetings, NLFE training and network events
travel to an initial meeting with a college to discuss a potential need
the cost of staff cover in relation to those activities
professional development for the NLFE’s college team which is related to the NLFE role
other non-recoverable costs incurred as part of the NLFE role

The supported college

Supported colleges may choose to pay directly for any costs that are not covered by the NLFE finance specialist annual bursary.

Training and development

As a new NLFE finance specialist, you’ll be invited to:

attend an induction workshop
meetings twice a year
network with other NLFEs and members of the FE commissioner’s team where you can share experience and good practice in delivering improvement support


You will be required to:

submit quarterly reports on the improvement support that you have provided and its impact
report on bursary spending at the end of each financial year

If you fail to provide the minimum level of support in any given academic year, your status will be reviewed, and some or all the bursary funding paid for that period may be repayable.


You’ll be appointed for up to 3 years. At the end of your period of appointment, you may be able to apply for re-appointment.

If you have any questions about the NLFE programme, email [email protected].

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