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Impact of New Fee Policies on FE Enrolment Minimal, says Study

A new study suggests new fee policies have had a minimal effect on enrolment for the FE sector.

The report, produced by the Learning and Skill Development Agency(LSDA) and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), which surveyed 40 learning providers, most of which were FE colleges, states that 75% believe fee changes have not had serious effect on enrolment for courses.

The survey also suggests that 92 % of colleges do not think fee increases have been “damaging”; furthermore, that more than 75% of the respondents support the move for an increased level of fee earning. In general, the providers surveyed have had “very few complaints” from users about fee increases.

Ministerial Praise

Commenting on the findings of the research, Bill Rammell MP, the Lifelong Learning Further and Higher Education Minister, praised the report and said it had long been held that people were ready to pay more for their courses. He added that colleges could expect employers and learners to reasonably contribute towards the funding of good quality education and training.

Mr. Rammell was quick to add that those who are unable to pay would be catered for, while resources are pulled together to meet priority skills. He said: “Our funding in Further Education is being prioritised to give people the skills they need for jobs, help those most in need and enable employers to become more competitive.

“With a new balance of responsibilities between government, business and learners,” he continued, “employers and those with qualifications will have to contribute more to learning where they can. This evidence confirms that most people believe this is right.”

Further Response

The Director of Funding and Strategy at the LSC, Geoff Daniels, also reacted to the report. He commented that it represents a positive development that most of the respondents have found that the new fee changes are not affecting enrolment and causing disruption. This, he explained, suggests that many users appreciate the value of training and are prepared to contribute towards the cost of their learning.

“We are encouraged by the findings of the report. Many colleges have found innovative ways of addressing the challenge. However, we recognise it is only the first year and are committed to working with colleges to manage the roll-out of the new arrangements,” he said.

Geoff Daniels added that colleges would continue to apply good judgement in setting their own fee policies, but there was a need for increased support from individuals and employers in order to sustain lower priority activity. “FE represents good value for money and we believe learners are prepared to pay reasonable fees for good quality learning,” he said.

Community Learning

The findings also suggest enrolment in Adult and Community Learning (ACL) had been more sensitive to fee changes, and stated that more colleges feel communication with employers on the issue of fees would benefit from greater clarity. It said, further, there was growing concern about the impact of fees on full-time adult courses. In addition, in spite of the fact that fee increases have yet to lead to a decrease in enrolments, there was a drop in some numbers because funding for adult learning has been diverted to the areas of highest priority that would impact most on learning and skills levels according to Government priorities.

The new policies, introduced in 2005/2006, require learners to pay increased contributions for some courses, especially social learning. It is all a part of a package of measures intended to channel funding for FE on the areas of highest priority that will have the most impact on learning and skills, as well as meeting the needs of employers and delivering the skills strategy.

Musa Aliyu

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