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FE survival is far from simple

While the latest news coming out of Brooklands College ("`Closure' campus to stay open despite debt", January 29) is perhaps less worrying than could at first have been feared, the college's situation is still serious with a number of redundancies being expected. This makes one wonder just what sort of year the sector is in for.

A significant number of colleges that are victims of the capital funding fiasco share common characteristics that are either already affecting, or are likely to affect, their financial health and performance in the coming months.

There will be no increase in projected income due to higher learner activity because the new build that supported it did not happen; there is the loss of savings anticipated in the running costs of new buildings; there is the added cost of making good old buildings on which maintenance had been deferred; and there is the write-off of professional fees associated with an abortive capital scheme.

In addition to this, every college in the country is also subject to the following issues: delivering the same outputs for less funding; and being subjected to a new funding regime from April that many feel is unworkable, a view with which my colleagues and I might sympathise.

All of these factors will lead, in our opinion, to many more colleges declaring financial problems as 2010 unfolds.

I'm afraid there is no panacea. It is a stark fact that the economics of running a typical FE college in the current environment do not add up and painful changes will be required in order for balance to be restored.

Colleges are now facing one of the most far-reaching changes in the way they are funded and the ones that come through unscathed will be those that take prompt and decisive action during the next few months.

I hope that the sector is able to look back with its usual good humour on this time as one that was painful but one which it survived. It is going to be a close run thing in some cases. We wish them well.

Malcolm Cooper, Managing director, MCA Cooper Associates.

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