A special interest group for the growing number of universities that provide further education courses has been established amid concern that funding allocations may soon "bear no relation" to actual cash requirements.
At its first meeting at De
Montfort University this week,
a group representing 30 institution heard that data being
used by the Further Education Funding Council to establish
provisional funding allocations was often inaccurate, leaving
estimates hundreds of thousands of pounds short. The group
fears the misleading data may be used to determine actual allocations.
The FEFC estimates "shadow" allocations, based on data provided by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, six months before the true picture is known.
The group is concerned that data from universities is not detailed enough to properly inform the FEFC, which uses a more complicated funding methodology.
The HESA data returns are made too early to take account of students' achievement, an essential part of the further education methodology. Detailed audits from awarding bodies come too late for the process.
Universities' general lack of awareness of the colleges' funding methodology is creating further anomalies.
"The FEFC is using HESA information, collected at the end of term in July, to estimate the number of funding units a university is likely to claim six months after the end of term," said
Janet Jaconelli, of De Montfort University, which organised the
"Generally the shadow funding claims give a false picture of activity." At De Montfort, which has historically provided art foundation courses and other specialist further education provision, the shadow cash claim was more than Pounds 300,000 short, she said.
There are 53 universities providing further education, and the numbers are exploding as more colleges merge with universities. The group has called for reassurances that the FEFC is not planning to use the inaccurate data to determine actual allocations.
"It is not the first time in higher education that allocations will be based on wrong statistics," she said. "That is why we hope to involve FEFC and HESA to try to ensure that we can come together to ensure that the statistics are accurate."
The FEFC and HESA were due to address the meeting as The THES went to press.