Agency draws up funding options

Short courses, franchising and education for adults are targeted in detailed proposals to cope with deep cuts in college expansion cash published this week.

They feature heavily in a list of options designed to cut around Pounds 71.5 million from college budgets in the next academic year.

The Further Education Funding Council must find at least that amount to stop colleges from axeing courses next year after the Government decided to end so-called demand-led funding, which pays for colleges to expand beyond their targets. But that means savings, described as efficiency gains, of 10.5 per cent across all colleges - of double the planned amount.

A consultation paper issued by the FEFC this week proposes options for spreading cuts, such as changing rates for different courses and changing funding formulae.

Colleges are, however, also being asked about the wider question of giving priority to different types of activity.

Overall changes proposed include making fast-expanding colleges bear the brunt of the cut, but offering them some cash protection. Alternatively, the council could simply reduce the rate at which it funds colleges across the board.

Other proposals include: * cutting funding for short courses, between nine and 20 hours, to save up to Pounds 27.7m * increasing tuition fees for work-based courses (at present, students or employers have to pay around a quarter of the cost, but that could increase to half) * cutting the cash for franchised courses, by setting a special funding rate, treating franchises like adult education - which is paid at a lower rate than colleges - or by increasing tuition fees * giving priority to full-time courses for 16- to 19-year-olds, or colleges that offer the only courses in their area * limiting the proportion of franchising in a college's work * giving priority to work in a college's normal recruitment areas * making in-house work a priority over franchised courses.

FEFC officials admit they must "square the circle" by spreading the cost of cuts without hitting any type of college too hard.

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