The report is based on an analysis of focus interviews conducted with 25 Principals and Chief Executives across UK Further Education colleges.
The report examines some of the key opportunities and challenges facing further education leaders including how colleges have responded to the coronavirus pandemic, the anticipated FE White Paper and the relationship between further and higher education.
There is little doubt that 2020 has been a uniquely challenging year for everyone working in further education. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused massive disruption to colleges across the UK.
Despite this, colleges have been able to rise to the challenge. Even during the height of the pandemic, many colleges remained open, continuing to provide vital support to their local communities. The relevance and importance of colleges, especially their indispensable role in supporting key worker occupations, cannot be denied.
The impacts of the pandemic will likely persist for some time yet. But even before the pandemic, there were significant long-term issues that colleges were having to confront. The challenges around funding, governance and leadership persist and have only become more acute in the last six months.
This “State of the Sector” report articulates the perspectives of college Chief Executives and Principals as they grapple with a range of complex and challenging issues. Undoubtedly there are significant areas of concern about how further education is placed on a sustainable footing going forward. But there are also plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
The recent Government announcement to expand funding for adult education is one such reason. But there is no doubt that further education colleges have risen to extraordinary challenges and will continue to do so.
The authors hope that all those working within and around further education find this report useful. It attempts to distill the thoughts of further education leaders on some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
Some of the key findings include:
- 81% of leaders surveyed agreed that further education colleges will be critical to economic recovery efforts
- Just 19% of leaders are very confident about the financial position of their college over the next 12 months
- 67% of leaders are concerned about the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on learner progression
- 80% of leaders agree that their governance arrangements are appropriate to respond to current and emerging challenges.
Ian Pretty, Chief Executive of Collab Group said:
“This report is the first of its kind for Collab Group and represents a really valuable encapsulation of the views of further education leaders at this challenging and unprecedented time. I want to thank Halpin for all their great work in conducting the research and analysis that went into this report.
Susie Hills, CEO of Halpin Partnership said:
“It has been a pleasure to partner with Collab Group on this report. The report tells a story of a sector which has risen to the immense challenges of Covid and which will be vital to our recovery.”