The vast majority of FE colleges are reacting positively and proactively to increase and maintain the quality of their provision, a survey conducted by Capita Further and Higher Education (FHE) has revealed.
The survey was undertaken to gain an insight into how colleges are coping with the difficult challenges and severe financial concerns as a result of the funding reductions imposed by the government.
The statistics show that nearly half of the colleges will be increasing the Apprenticeships they offer to fall in line with current government policy.
To make efficiency gains, colleges will be relying far more heavily on better use of staff (85%), technology (71%), a halt on non-essential recruitment (60%) than on shared services (27%).
Rob Elliott, UK products manager for Capita FHE, said: “FE colleges are currently faced with a precarious balancing act.
“On one hand, they are perfectly placed to ensure that the up-coming generation are equipped with the skills needed to breathe life back into the UK’s economy. On the other hand, in line with all public sector organisations, colleges are being asked to do this with less funding so must find efficiency savings.
The consequences for not finding a balance could be extreme; as well as the potential financial distress, the government is proposing to address underperformance quickly and could remove public funding entirely from inadequate providers.”
Figures from the survey reveal:
- – 97% of colleges are focused on, at a minimum, maintaining the quality of their provision despite the cuts, with 74% concentrating on improving quality.
- – 59% believe it is a realistic goal to improve the quality of provision in the face of significant cuts.
- – 49% will increase the level of apprenticeship places to fall in line with current government focus.
- – 27% of colleges indicated they would look at shared services to make efficiency savings.
- – 93% find management information systems useful to pinpoint areas of inefficiency.
Mr Elliott added: “Despite the turbulence in the sector, there have been some encouraging signs, like apprenticeships where the government wants growth.
“The survey results demonstrate that colleges are once again ready to confront challenges head on. Participation is increasing, we might, therefore, not be seeing the feared ‘more for less’.”
He also emphasised that using technology to keep colleges in good financial shape is critical, because it allows quick analysis of how efficiently resources are being used.