FE colleges forced to bid to win back places

The revelation that four out of five bidders for the 20,000 cut-price undergraduate degree places are further education colleges may be disguising the fact that many are simply bidding to "stand still".

November 17, 2011

The Higher Education Funding Council for England announced this week that it had received bids from 202 institutions for the 20,000 places being auctioned off to lower-cost providers for 2012-13.

The auction is part of a two-pronged plan to ramp up competition in the sector.

Of these, 167 are further education colleges, which bid for almost 20,000 places, and 34 are universities, which applied for 16,000. A secondary school that offers foundation degrees also submitted a bid.

However, although the proportions mean that further education could be given more than half of the places on offer, college principals have expressed anger at the process.

Nick Davy, higher education policy manager at the Association of Colleges, said further education providers were being forced to win back places they did not expect to lose after Hefce "backtracked" on plans to protect numbers.

In its original proposals, Hefce suggested that colleges it directly funded - and which were charging tuition fees of less than £6,000 - would not face the 9 per cent cut in places being applied to universities to create the 20,000-strong pool.

However, Hefce changed its plans following a recent consultation with the sector - although FE institutions' first 50 higher education places will escape the cull.

Mr Davy said Hefce's decision was "bizarre" as it appeared to run "counter to the direction of travel indicated in the White Paper" about colleges being able to expand.

"Because of this you'll find that probably even more [further education colleges]...are applying for the margin," he said.

Noel Otley, principal of Havering College, said his institution had bid for 60 places, but could lose almost 100 to create the margin, leading to a net loss.

"You potentially are in a position where you're bidding just to stand still, which is not what we'd thought the process was about," he said.

A number of colleges that have partnerships with higher education institutions are also bidding to replace the student places being withdrawn by universities as they try to limit the damage of the 9 per cent cut to their own core allocation.

Philip Davies, assistant director for higher education at Bournemouth and Poole College, said this meant that "core and margin" policies were having the "opposite effect" to the government's goal of trying to widen participation through further education expansion.


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Felipe Fernández-Armesto takes issue with a claim that the EU has been playing the sovereignty card in Brexit negotiations

Female professor

New data show proportion of professors who are women has declined at some institutions

John McEnroe arguing with umpire. Tennis

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman explain how to negotiate your annual performance and development review

Man throwing axes

UCU attacks plans to cut 171 posts, but university denies Brexit 'the reason'

Cricket player and umpire exchanging bribe

The need to accommodate foreign students undermines domestic practices, says Lincoln Allison, spying parallels between UK universities and global sports bodies such as Fifa