Colleges recruiting degree and sub-degree students are finding competition from universities particularly damaging this year, writes Alison Utley.
Initial reports indicate that numbers are down in some subject areas. Colleges believe the fall is due to universities taking students who previously would have been recruited by further education.
At Blackburn College, where 20 per cent of courses are in higher education, applicants to foundation studies in art and design and business studies are lower than usual and principal John Bolton believes direct entry is to blame.
"More universities are taking candidates without foundation this year," he said. "And more students are getting places for university degrees rather than coming to colleges for HNDs."
Elsewhere franchised courses are being hit. At Havering College, where 10 per cent of courses are in higher education, principal Ken Clarke said that recruitment was in line with expectations on its own courses but some planned franchise courses had not gone ahead.
"We suspect that some universities are accepting people with lower grades and as a result some colleges are suffering severe financial implications," he said. Havering had decided to concentrate more on HND and HNC work.
A principal of a large FE college in the Midlands who asked not to be named had the same experience. He said: "The former polytechnics are taking students away from us. They are lowering their entry requirements and taking students from our HND courses to do degrees."