FE urged to work with HE

January 23, 2003

Key points

  • Expansion of vocational degrees

  • Streamlining of accountability burden

  • Some further education colleges to receive direct funding from Hefce


Further education colleges and universities are being asked to collaborate more closely than ever before.

The extra students needed to meet the government’s target of ensuring that half of young people   have experienced higher education by 2010 will come through studying foundation degrees often at further education colleges.

In some cases, the Higher Education Funding Council for England will grant money directly to further education colleges, rather than giving the cash to higher education institutions to pass on to the colleges.

The white paper says: “There will be some instances - such as where ‘niche’ provision is delivered or where there are no higher education providers - where direct funding of higher education in further education colleges may be more appropriate.”

Colleges will have to measure up to criteria including a critical mass of higher education and a track record on quality to get direct funding. Performance against these criteria will be judged by the funding council.

Colleges will also get cash to develop foundation degrees with employers and universities.

The government plans to make it easier for further and higher education providers to collaborate. It has promised to work with Hefce and the Learning and Skills Council to reduce the difficulties mixed-economy colleges face operating within two funding regimes. A joined-up approach will be pioneered for planning, funding and data collection.

This was welcomed by Michael Thrower, principal of Northbrook College and chairman of the Mixed Economy Group of colleges that deliver about 10 per cent of all higher education.

He said: “I am glad they have recognised that having to deal with two funding regimes does give Meg colleges a problem in trying to satisfy two sets of requirements. I would like to know how they are going to deal with that.”

Dr Thrower and John Brennan, director of FE development for the Association of Colleges, said that colleges would see the top-up fees as a backward step.

Mr Brennan said: “Not only might higher fees act as a deterrent to students from poorer families, but they will mean a big difference in funding for the favoured and the not-so-favoured institutions that in the end will have an impact on quality.”

David Robertson, head of policy development at Liverpool John Moores University and architect of the foundation degree, said proposals for a network of universities to validate foundation degrees in FE colleges could effectively mean “reinventing the Council for National Academic Awards”.

He said: “Foundation degrees have a natural home in the colleges providing that the partnerships between universities, colleges and employers is established to oversee quality.” 


Timetable of reform

Phase One (2003-05):
Higher research category introduced; first knowledge exchanges and centres of teaching excellence named; student guide to universities published; teaching quality academy and leadership foundation established; changes to university title criteria; statutory adjudicator for student complaints and access regulator appointed; grants restored for new students from poor homes; arts and humanities research council created.

Phase Two (2005-07):
More knowledge exchanges and teaching excellence centres named; all new lecturers to be trained; first top-up fees agreed with regulator.

Phase Three (beyond 2007):
Research assessment revised; performance-related pay introduced; first loan repayments under graduate contributions scheme.

The Future of Higher Education
Cm 5735 , £17.50 from the Stationery Office (0870 600 5522).

Comments by April 30 to hestrategy@dfes.gsi.gov.uk   or Consultation Unit, DFES, Area 1D, Castle View House, East Lane, Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7 2GJ

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