Dash for cash will encourage FE colleges to take university route

February 5, 2009

A drive for additional funds will encourage further education colleges to seek university status, a college head has told a committee of MPs.

Asked by the MPs why successful colleges would seek to change their status to university colleges and universities, Pat Bacon, principal of St Helens College in Merseyside, said: "It is likely to be driven by funding.

"I think targets and league tables are the kinds of things that do influence behaviour."

Ms Bacon was representing the 157 Group of large further education colleges before the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee at an evidence session on universities and students last week.

Ms Bacon said colleges had to seek funding wherever it was available as competition for students increased.

"I think there is going to be a drive coming out of demographic change. (For example), one of our university validating partners has stopped working with its existing further education network."

Ms Bacon admitted that staff also liked the idea of working in an institution with degree-awarding powers.

"I suppose there is an ambition for many academic staff to be able to teach at what is perceived to be a higher level," she said.

But she added that her own college would not be taking the plunge.

"We teach well, deliver learning well and support our students well," Ms Bacon said.

"I have no interest in (St Helens) becoming a university. We know why we deliver higher education the way we do."

hannah.fearn @tsleducation.com.

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