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AoC unveils overhaul of 'unsustainable' structures to save £1m

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, releases details of plans to change its membership fees and regional bodies

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David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, releases details of plans to change its membership fees and regional bodies

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has today announced plans to overhaul its regional structure and alter membership fees with the aim of trimming £1 million from its budget.

Following an internal review launched in the autumn, the AoC is also consulting its members on its plans to increase its focus on public affairs, policy, research and analysis.

A briefing for members, shared with TES, reveals that the current organisation is “not affordable”; without changes, there would be a £1 million overspend on its £6 million budget in 2017-18, it says.

The AoC also projects that its membership will drop to around 250 colleges, due to mergers prompted by the area reviews.

'Unsustainable' regional structure

“It’s very clear we need to make efficiency savings," AoC chief executive David Hughes told TES.

AoC is proposing an overhaul of its “unsustainable” regional structure to achieve efficiency savings and address “inconsistency” in levels of support across the country.

At present it has nine regions: six are AoC offices, while the other three are outsourced to EMFEC in the East Midlands, ACER in the East and AoSEC in the South-East. The AoC has proposed reducing the number of regions – and regional directors – to either five or six.

Members are also being asked whether they would like AoC to continue offering national bargaining with the trade unions over pay and conditions on their behalf.

Mr Hughes added: “Members have said they want us to spend more time on developing leading thinking ahead of policy changes.

“We want to raise the profile and reputation of the sector, and for AoC to be recognised for its analysis and research, and considered responses and engagement. Our members are very supportive of what we want to do.”

However he acknowledged that changes to its regional structure would be “controversial” and likely to result in redundancies, but said AoC has “no idea of the scale of that” at the moment.

At present, colleges pay two membership fees: in 2016-17, they collectively paid £4 million to the national AoC, with £1.5 million going to its regional bodies (figures exclude ACER).

Under the proposed reforms, members would pay a single subscription, set at 0.1 per cent of a college’s turnover, with a reduced rebate for the largest colleges and lower fees for both sixth-form colleges and land–based colleges which are members of the Landex group.

For 2017-18, fees would be capped at £38,500 for the largest colleges. The AoC calculates that 89 colleges would see their fees rise by 10 per cent or more, while 68 colleges’ subscriptions would drop by at least 5 per cent. As a result, AoC would cap any changes at 5 per cent per year.

He added: “I believe that our proposals for change will ensure we are a confident and ambitious organisation that can represent and influence successfully on behalf of colleges at a national and local level.”

The consultation runs until 3 March 2017.

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