From education to employment

South East Colleges Find New Solutions to Meet Funding and Development Needs

The Minister of State for Education Alan Johnson MP may have announced grandly that adult literacy will be no more than a memory by 2020 this morning, but there are other areas that challenge FE to step up to the new mark.

The difficulties in finding the funds to support expansion and development in FE generally have been reported in great detail, but a significant area has been neglected. It is a simple matter for the press to concentrate on the negative aspects of FE, such as funding cuts and strikes looming. Similarly, expansive speeches from Ministers make great reading and great copy; but simply stating that a problem exists and that it must and will be solved is only half the battle.


This is not to deny that the funding picture is indeed a challenging one for FE institutions everywhere. Colleges especially face tough decisions on the future of their programmes, with the likely cuts in Government funding for post 19 “non essential” training and education programmes. The leaders of the management teams of these colleges will face difficult times ahead, as the front line of the funding battle will be the theatre where the imposition of fees on students will actually hit the hardest.

The truth that faces colleges is that there is no second choice; the pursuit of a more business minded success is the only way forward. And according to information released by the Association of South East Colleges (AoSEC), the colleges in this part of the country are taking the lead in this, offering programmes that interest employers and businesses in investing in the college to the benefit of both sides of the agreement.

Business Partnerships

One example of a College seizing the bull by the horns can be found in Newbury. The college in this town, faced with a funding shortfall due to the funding priorities as explained before, required newer and better developed premises to continue to excel in FE. They decided to be proactive in their search for a solution and have formed a business partnership with mobile telephone giants Vodafone.

The company may have declared disappointing results recently, but this does not change their pre-eminent position in the telecommunications marketplace. As such, this represents a significant deal for Newbury College and will, in due course, lead to contributions to the construction funding pot. Thus a partnership with the private sector will help the college provide the services necessary.

Ayelsbury College are also taking a new approach to the problem. Their programme of part funding from business contribution for their new building work has received parliamentary interest. Colleges are also making the first move in marketing their training courses, with Eastleigh College offering training to security staff at Southampton Football Club and Thanet College training the catering staff at Buckingham Palace and railway staff with the need for French language skills.

Speaking on behalf of AoSEC, Alan Corbett commented on these trailblazers in the sector, saying: “Congratulations to Colleges in South East England for seeking additional funding sources and new markets for their courses, thus bringing more jobs and prosperity to the region.”

As many problems as there are in the public services in terms of budget, targets, costs and provision, innovative solutions are there; they just have to be found.

Jethro Marsh

Talk to the monkey who talks to you in From the FE Trenches!

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