Dr Paul Phillips CBE, Principal and Chief Executive, Weston College

The Further Education agenda is one full of surprises, challenges and opportunities

As I look across my own organisation I never cease to be amazed at the commitment of my staff, the majority of whom go above and beyond to deliver a brilliant and inspiring education to our customers.

The customers range from traditional college learners to apprentices, businesses, undergraduates, postgraduates and major levy employers.

The fact that Colleges can actually deliver brilliance against a culture of poor funding, lack of investment in our sector generally and multiple bureaucratic funding streams is a miracle in itself.

Ridiculous rules permeating the public sector

Two weeks ago, I visited a surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford who told me that I would need a procedure which would be available probably in 9 months’ time. I was somewhat shocked at the wait, but his nurse explained to me that the restrictions on how much surgeons can earn regarding pensions etc. is capped and therefore he can only work a few days each week.

It brought home to me the ridiculous rules permeating the public sector. There is suddenly a real focus on public spending and ensuring value for money – I sort of get it, but it is spiralling out of control.

We operate in both private and public sector as an FE College and surely, we should have ownership of our agenda which is successful learners. We don’t do courses anymore, we deliver jobs, we deliver careers and that is what is crucial!

It’s not the buildings that make Further Education

Whilst I am a firm believer in FE and all that it delivers, I am not against change. I remember a story of a manufacturing company who in the war produced a certain product, customer service, packaging and quality of product which were outstanding.

When the war was over, one of the commanders decided to visit the company. He was shocked to find that the company had been replaced by a relatively modern house and knocked on the door to find out where the company had moved to. The door was opened by an elderly lady who smiled and took him through the house, into the garden and into a shed where her husband had made the products.

Why tell this story? It Is to emphasise that it’s not the buildings that make Further Education, but the learning that takes place inside them!

Our sector welcomes the level of capital investment promised for the future, but we really need massive increases in funding. My own college is a traditional FE College – it’s grown from a turnover of circa £8,000,000 to nearer £60,000,000 with a real diversity of offering. A five percent increase in 16-19 doesn’t even result in a one percentage growth for our institution.

Moreover, how will the capital be dealt with in regard to an equitable allocation? Hopefully it will start with current capital loans as a percentage of revenue, followed by investment costs proportional to building condition and current loan costs.

Or will it... will such an approach be ignored, or could it be-stabilize? We will no doubt see.

Welcome to another day in paradise

Despite this, I still greet my team with those possibly cynical words: ‘Welcome to another day in paradise’.

Actually, it is paradise because our sector cares, we make a demonstrable difference to our learners and we really try to support them. In what career structure could your life be like a three-legged stool where one leg is the Chief Operations, one is Quality Assurance and the last one is business growth and acumen.

Break one and you’re in trouble, look after them and they can oversee the most complicated of situations and return investment with learner success and profile.

So, what is on my shopping list for the future?

Simplicity of process, to be able to operate like a business, for my college to have freedom of choice in its private domain so that we can compete fairly and equitably with others. It is time for change and that change will be refreshing and innovational.

Equally I doubt FE can ever come into its full potential until it is private sector. But private sector I hear you say means real competition, cut throat negotiation and an ability to win!! Bring it on!

Dr Paul Phillips CBE, Principal and Chief Executive, Weston College

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 54 minutes ago

RT @FENews: NAHT demonstrates commitment to furthering equality, diversity and inclusion in schools: @NAHTnews demonstrates commitment to f…
View Original Tweet

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 Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 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, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

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.


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.


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