Colleges That Don't Plan Should Emulate Drought Stricken Cape Town

It was as I sat drinking coffee, high in the "groves above academe", that I first realized that Cape Town can teach us much about the solution to FEs current woes.

Let me go back to the beginning and relate the story chronologically. I've just spent a month in South Africa. An hour before drinking this particular coffee I'd been at the main Cape Town University campus. It's located high above Cape Town and is the most beautiful university locations I know.

Now I was further up the mountain, on the Groote Schuur estate, high above UCT, where the granite Rhodes Memorial sits like a brooding Corinthian temple to Cecil Rhodes. Interestingly the students at the university below have no interest in campaigning for this monument to be removed. It's only at UK universities I see Rhodes being pilloried!

From this hillside the view is of the Mother City of Cape Town, from far inland across the city to the Waterfront and beyond to Mandela’s Robben Island. Cape Town, the place of sweet water or //Hui !Gaeb in the Khoisan tongue

CT, as the locals refer to it, is a wonderful place. Post-apartheid it is vibrant and, like the rest of Africa, almost addictive. But it is not without its problems. It's a city of extremes. Poverty and wealth sit side by side. But what brings the people of all colours, religions and employment status together is water.

Or rather the lack of water

CT has experienced great drought in recent years. The years of sweet water could be numbered. Last year when I was here the reservoirs were down to the 32% after two years where the winter rains failed to materialise. The last 13% of water in the reservoirs isn't usable simply because it's sludge and definitely not sweet.  

Today the reservoirs stand at 73%. But the people of CT haven't relaxed the strict water rationing that has been so necessary to survive. “5b” restrictions, as they are encoded in local water regulations, means everyone is restricted to 70 litres of water a day. That's for drinking, cooking, washing, cleaning and flushing. Flushing once a day can use up a large proportion of your daily allocation and when you shower you stand in a bowl and use the waste water for flushing.

Showering is a matter of turning on the shower for ten seconds to soak the skin, then turning it off whilst soaping down, then a quick flush to rinse the soap off. I'm not sure how this is policed... Perhaps someone can enlighten me. But people seem to stick to it and overall usage around 70 litres a day as per the regulations.

What is common to see is people washing in the sea. Not swimming ... Washing! Walking into the sea with a bar of soap and lathering liberally.

But what has this to do with FE’s woes I hear you say

Saving Water and FE

The FE news for me over the last few weeks have been via email, articles here on FE News and more than one desperate phone call.

I see a sector in shock. Some people appear to be in denial whilst others revel in the demise of individuals.  

This is a time when being able to stand outside and be objective is a Godsend. From high up in the hills of academe above UCT it's possible to reflect in a way not possible when firefighting at a college in the UK. Because it's not just the 7-8 colleges, that have seen their principals suddenly leave in the last few weeks, that are under pressure.

I've also seen principals I highly respect clearly dazed by what is going on in the sector. Some have decried the demise of fellow principals saying we all make mistakes and they should be given a second chance.

True, education is the second chance that many of us have used to great advantage. My reason for being in FE is that I believe everyone deserves a chance in life and I know FE is the answer for many.

But is that the same as a principal making a mistake and being given another chance?

In CT, if they had made mistakes with water rationing, a second chance would not have been possible. People would die of thirst.

Once the water runs out in a city of millions of people you can't have a second chance. You have to get to right first time.

Clearly the errors we make whilst employed vary in magnitude, but some are of a magnitude that precludes a second chance. And serial failures, especially where highlighted issues have repeatedly been ignored by a principal, are a definite red flag.

What Woes is FE Suffering?

I constantly hear that FE is underfunded. This cry has been constant since the 2008 recession and even before.

I've often written that it isn't underfunded, but FE is using its money in the wrong way. In CT the people had limited money to spend on fighting the drought. Spending loads on new reservoirs, when there was a drought and construction would take years, was a non-runner. Simple things helped a lot though.

For a few rand you can buy a bottle of water in the supermarket. When the majority of people started buying bottled drinking water it reduced the pressure on the reservoirs. When car washing, and watering flower beds become illegal things improved further.

Some people installed quite expensive grey water recycling units. In the townships, where standpipes are the norm, no one considered this at all. And don't confuse living in tin shack with poverty. Most of the people I meet that live in townships own cars and satellite TV, but don't have running water in their homes.

An alternative to grey water recycling was the water butt. It still rains a bit in CT, just not enough in the hills around the reservoirs which are 75 km inland. A water butt can give you enough water for a week when you get a 20-minute downpour. And on the coast don't ignore the fogs that come in off the Atlantic. Up the coast in Namibia whole ecosystems survive on the moisture from fog. In CT I've seen downpipes with a steady drip, drip, drip of water when there's a good fog. Small volumes of water caught in inexpensive water butts make a huge difference if everyone catches water this way.

What this means for FE is that we need to spend wisely and employ technologies and tactics we hadn't previously considered. Sometimes, like catching fog in a bucket, we can use very simple tactics.

We also have to work as a community. I see many colleges in the UK attempting curriculum innovation. But working together to do this is less common, and where it is happening is often prompted by external/commercial bodies.

There is an opportunity for the AOC to take a greater lead in this. But that means that member colleges have to nudge them in the right direction. It might take a bit nudge!

Getting a few thousand people marching in London and asking government for more money is never going to work. The Sir Humphrey’s and MPs know that offering a few million here and there has been enough to quell disquiet in the past and continue to do so with T levels whilst destroying apprenticeships with their actions.

The recent FE funding petition didn’t attract very many signatures. If people on the fringe of FE, like myself, were prepared to sign why didn’t more than half of FE staff? It’s a sad indictment of FE that so many are so apathetic.

FE Needs to Plan Better

A few days ago, I read an article that suggested that one college principal had neglected to produce business, curriculum, estate and other plans. This didn't surprise me as, sad to say, FE doesn't always grasp planning essentials. Come to that nor does HE. I recall one university where, when I asked for the agenda and minutes from a regular meeting, I was told they didn't have any. This was in the business school of a major UK university that was undertaking a £multimillion curriculum change that no university had previously attempted.

If they tried to manage without plans or minutes how can we expect FE to do better?

However lax the university was it doesn't excuse an FE college

I recently spent some time comparing notes with a contemporary. Both of us had reams of examples of colleges that hadn't produced business, curriculum, estate and other plans when they had called us in.

If you don't know where you are going, you'll never know anything about your journey. How long it will take, the stopping off points along the way, what it will cost and your planned arrival date.

Part of the problem is that too few people in FE understand planning. They don't know the difference between a strategy, a plan and tactics. The number of times I've been shown “strategies” that are actually reams of badly cobbled together research or wish lists. My first job is often to ascertain the objective and then produce the actual strategy. (Defining the objective is often another challenge).

Strategies are overarching, not detailed. I can often reduce a hundred-page strategy, that no one has ever bothered to read, down to a single side of A4 that people can read and understand.

It doesn't matter whether the strategy is for finance, curriculum, estates or whatever .... it can be reduced to a handful of words.

One college had reams of info as part of their estates strategy. It took me a whole day to read it, its appendices and supporting docs. What it really said was that they were going to build a new block and would finance it from the sale of a barely used city centre site. You don't need 200 pages to say that. Their strategy could be written in one sentence. The rest of the bumph may be necessary, but they are not a strategy.

So, where a college fails to produce strategies that are simple enough that a six-year-old can understand them I fear the worse.

Of course, we then need plans and other documents. In the rebuild strategy above I then wanted to see the building plans, the finance plan and a lot more besides. But before that I want to see the curriculum plan that makes the building necessary.

Unless we have a curriculum, plan detailing the courses, levels etc. how do we know if we need a new building. It's not enough to say we are building a new engineering block without having to a detailed idea of what will be offered in it. It's seems incredible but so frequently I get very vague feedback on this essential. Principals tell me I need to speak to the head of engineering ... They don't seem to have dug into what they've been told with any rigour and determination.

Likewise, I get vacant stares when I ask to see the gross margin analysis of each curriculum area and course. Most colleges have only the vaguest idea of what courses cost to run. They rely on funding weighting data produced by outsiders. They have no idea how things like the preponderance of younger/older staff and their relative salaries impact the profit or loss characteristics of particular areas or courses.

In CT thy know how much water is used by every home and business. If colleges had the same data on their offer, they could identify problem areas and find answers.

Financial strategies and plans need to be detailed if they are to be of use. Colleges have this data but rarely bring it together, with curriculum, estates and other plans, so that they can plan effectively. Does your college have robust plans?

About Stefan DrewStefan was previously director of marketing at two FHE colleges and for over a decade has consulted with colleges, universities and private providers throughout the UK, Europe, Africa and the US. Connect with Stefan on LinkedIn  

Stefan Drew Newsroom Strap

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

Ahlan Safety commented on 5 ways to keep your Company safe yesterday

Workplace health and safety is very important part for every business. I read these 5 steps, So I...

Ahlan Safety commented on 5 ways to keep your Company safe yesterday

Workplace health and safety is very important part for every business. I read these 5 steps, So I...

I really enjoy to read this article. I want to...

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page