Malcolm Cooper, MD, MCA Cooper Associates

Cash is king, is an often-used statement in the commercial world. And it is true, businesses do not fail because of lack of profit but due to a lack of cash. The crunch arrives when the wages cannot be paid. It is possible for a business to be making profits but still run out of cash.

The same is true in any FE college. This is why all college Finance Directors monitor cash constantly, of course some need to pay more close attention to this than others, but it is without a doubt vital to all, whatever their particular circumstances.

So why do I question cash’s royal provenance?

The reason is that when a college is short of cash there are various ways to deal with the problem. These include severe clamping down on spending, raising additional finance by increasing borrowings or selling assets e.g. properties. The problem with the last of these is that there is only so much family silver and all of them have one thing in common, they all represent essentially a short-term fix.

To use a health analogy, whilst you can give someone a blood transfusion if they are short of blood, ultimately, to improve their long-term health, it is necessary to find out WHY they were short of blood in the first place and fix that!

Over the years at MCA we have seen various different college structures. Two particular extreme examples come to mind:

  1. Model one has a structure in which curriculum dominates over finance. In these colleges what can happen is that wonderful curriculum initiatives can abound which make absolutely no financial sense whatsoever.
  2. Model two, in which finance dominates over curriculum invariably you get a college with a strong bottom line but one in which learners are starved of necessary resources.

Of course, neither of these is ideal nor sustainable in the long-term and that is why, at MCA, we always recommend a structure which has a balance between resourcing and curriculum.

This is the “Triumverate”, which has a CEO/Principal supported by two senior postholders, one in charge of all curriculum and quality matters and one whose remit is all things resourcing. With this structure in place there is a better chance of good quality being delivered which makes sound financial sense.

Of course, we would accept that in some colleges, the scale of operations needs a modification of this approach, but the underlying principal is still sound. The thinking behind this approach is that it is important in a modern FE college to find a balance. A balance between curriculum’s needs and resourcing’s capability to supply. A college’s main purpose is to provide education and training for its learners, not a return for shareholders and this should always be borne in mind.

Any college that runs out of cash does so because there is an adverse imbalance between its income generation and its expenditure. Experience tells us that this is due to operational imbalances within the college, usually, but not always, led by lack of control of staffing costs.

So back to cash! Why is it not always king?

The answer to this is in the blood transfusion example. Taking action to generate cash on its own, as a way of solving an underperforming college’s problems can only ever be an intermediate step. It never provides the whole solution. What must follow is a thorough review of the College’s operations to find out why it was in need of cash in the first place.

What is needed is a Recovery Plan and although there is a view, which I do not share, that this is merely a set of financial forecasts, it is actually a much more than that. It is an in-depth examination of what went wrong and the agreement of a set of actions to correct the problem. Without this there will remain a hole in the bottom of the bucket, so to speak, which no amount of extra cash will plug.

So, is cash king? Of course it is, but for it to remain so it needs a firm, balanced, operationally-sound base for its throne!

Malcolm Cooper, MD, MCA Cooper Associates

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

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.


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