The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has recently published a study evaluating the impact of the European Social Fund (ESF) Objective 3 co-financing system in England.

Introduced in September 2001, the Objective 3 co-financing merges ESF and match funding into a single funding stream. The aims of the single funding stream was to reduce the levels of bureaucracy faced by providers, promoting further alignment with Government programmes and maximising the added value to their delivery as well as improving the strategic direction and effectiveness of ESF expenditure.

Case Studies

The report's findings are based on fifteen case studies with co-financing organizations (CFOs) including interviews with stakeholders and current and former Objective 3 providers. CFOs include the Job Centre Plus, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), local authorities and Regional Development Agencies (RDAs). In evaluating the impact of the ESF Objective 3 co-financing system, the report investigates the steps taken by CFOs to maintain or raise the standard of provision under co-financing, the influence of co-financing on access to ESF funding for providers and beneficiaries and how co-financing has influenced the coherence with, and contribution to, local, regional and national policy.

The report reveals that there have been some key developments since previous studies in 2001 and 2003. One of these developments is the increased level of CFO activity due to successive CFO tendering rounds and from general experience which has led to familiarity with the principles and procedures involved. Overall there has been a marked improvement in the quality of bids and the standard of Objective 3 service delivery has been either maintained or raised. This improvement is attributed to better efforts of communication during the bidding stage by CFOs and the increased focus on beneficiary outcomes.

CFOs have also made considerable progress in terms of joint working and the establishment of collaborative approaches involving the development of strategic partnerships, good working relationships between individual CFOs and promoting an open exchange to share good practice and experiences. LSC CFOs, for example, have developed a partnership approach to encourage smaller providers to participate applying for funding. Overall providers saw a reduction in bureaucracy when applying for Objective 3 funding. The processes for bidding have become streamlined and generally easier.


Despite co-financing achievements there are many developments that are a concern. In spite of the fact that the co-financing mechanism has removed the need for providers (both large and small) to secure match funding and the reduced paperwork involved, the more systematic monitoring procedures of the ESF Objective 3 co-financing regime still require a high level of bureaucratic oversight. Although providers generally support the open and competitive tendering (OCT) process, they also feel the process fails to take into account a provider's local knowledge or previous delivery history.

There are many perceived and actual barriers to small scale providers tendering for contracts, including the larger risks associated with the linkage of payments to beneficiary achievement for smaller providers and whether they would have the capacity and resources to cope with the contracts and the associated bureaucracy. It is therefore unlikely that smaller providers could participate as sole contractors. LSC CFOs tenders are for fewer and generally for larger contracts. With some CFOs, though, there have been increases in tendering for smaller contracts in order to focus on more challenging beneficiaries or hard to reach groups.

Regional Development Plans

This focus on hard to reach groups falls in line with Regional Development Plans (RDPs) but providers may be less willing to support these types of beneficiaries in the next programme round due to the imposition of outcome related payments. For example, one of the report's case studies highlighted the case of a provider dealing with challenging beneficiaries and the inappropriateness of the outputs and outcomes they were expected to deliver for their target group. Other case studies also considered the expected outputs and outcomes were not always appropriate to their target beneficiaries.

Significantly, the impact of the co-financing regime on beneficiaries, providers and performance delivery is unclear in the absence of quantitative data, coupled with a limited number of completed contracts and reports. The research report has had to largely focus on case studies, which do reveal some of the achievements and shortcomings of the co-financing regime, but the lack of quantitative data is a significant weakness recognised by the report in making conclusive findings.

Manju Rani

Stay with FE News for the latest in FE!


Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 55 minutes ago

How to effectively deliver English on-line - tips and...

Overview The restrictions implemented in 2020 forced a shift in opportunities to engage with learners in the traditional face-to-face manner. This...

  • Thursday, 15 April 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online

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