The Chartered Institution for Further Education (CIFE) will be able to survive on membership fees alone, its CEO has insisted.
In 2017-18, the body – created by Lord Lingfield (pictured) following his 2012 government-commissioned report – received £430,000 in funding from the Department for Education. But shortly before Christmas it announced that it had drawn up a new plan to stand on its own feet without assistance from the DfE.
Speaking to Tes, CIFE chief executive Dan Wright said the end of the financial support from the DfE would not spell the end of the organisation, and its plans going forward were “quite straightforward”. He also confirmed that it had shed jobs in a move to balance the books.
“We always knew that the DfE funding was not going to be forever," said Mr Wright. The institution currently has 16 members paying a regular fee – which Mr Wright said was sufficient to keep it functioning.
“It is do-able with that. I think we have to grow the organisation and I would not like an ultimate final number on it. We are changing our model and looking at the way we can reduce some costs, but it is a membership organisation and members want to get involved in the policies and direction of the organisation. We have looked at what we need to do to maintain a focus on growth.”
In 2017, Lord Lingfield told Tes that the Chartered Institution for Further Education would need to attract "80 or 90 members" in order to generate enough funding to be entirely self-sufficient. He said he wanted the CIFE, which received its royal charter in 2015, to rely wholly on its own income within several years. “In order to do that, it would require probably a minimum of 80 or 90 members. That is what we’ve got to be aiming at, in order to ensure we can financially stand on our own feet.”
But Mr Wright today said: "To carry on with our original plans would have required quite a high numbers of members. Our membership process is quite a complex one, and it takes longer than I guess we originally planned. We need organisations that are committed to excellence. That has led to a number of institutions not admitted, which is a good thing."
“We now have a core membership that is very robust and interested in promoting excellence in the sector. Now our plan is to work with our members and continue to grow membership at a steady pace.”
'Business as usual'
He added: “For existing members, it is business as usual. We have re-modelled and reduced cost. But we still have the support of Lord Lingfield and others. The general feeling is that people want to grow this into an impactful voice in the sector.”
The precise direction the organisation would be taking was yet to be decided, said Mr Wright. “There is a range of options we can work through to grow our voice in the sector. The charter is there.
“Being independent means we can talk independently about the challenges facing the sector – of which there are many. We want to be a model of what good looks like. Not just in terms of Ofsted inspections, which are important, but our admission process is a more holistic one.”
A DfE spokesperson said: “It has always been the intention that the Chartered Institution for Further Education should be financially independent, and not reliant on government funding.
“From January 2019, CIFE’s activities will no longer be financially supported by the Department for Education. And we expect that a final payment from us to CIFE, in respect of CIFE’s previous liabilities, will be made at the end of January.”