The Gazelle College Group needs structural reform and a clearer purpose if it is to realise its full potential, according to a new report.
The entrepreneurial-focused group was set up in 2012 to offer students real-world business experience as they learned, and has grown to encompass 23 colleges across the UK.
An independent impact analysis, commissioned by the group and carried out by the Policy Consortium, finds that while the group has had a positive impact, its structure needs to be revamped to make it work more effectively.
“Gazelle benefited, in its initial stages, from some charismatic and inspirational leadership that opened up new possibilities for the sector," the report says. "There is now a need to balance the emphasis on innovation - crucially important in the early stages - with a structure more attuned to the smooth and efficient running of a large and complex organisation.”
Earlier this year TES revealed Ofsted data which suggested that colleges belonging to the group, who pay £30,000 a year plus VAT for membership, were underperforming compared with the sector as a whole.
This week's report says several colleges felt there should have been a “swift riposte” to the concerns over how much they were paying in membership fees, which made clear their governors had been involved throughout and that they approved plans and expenditure.
It adds: “It was evident that there has been some scepticism from colleges outside of the Gazelle Colleges Group towards the brand, at least in the short-term.” There is now a need to rethink the communications strategy at every level, it says.
However, the report says Gazelle has had a “significantly positive” impact on its member colleges and the FE sector as a whole.
It says Gazelle has a “good story to tell” and its members have some “solid achievements” that deserve wider recognition, including “new and exciting” approaches to teaching and learning and helping the sector improve its reputation for enterprise and entrepreneurship.
Fintan Donohue (pictured), CEO of Gazelle, said: “The report makes very clear that Gazelle's work and the investment of our colleges have introduced new thinking and concepts to further education that are of collective and real benefit.
“At the same time, we acknowledge the areas for improvement outlined in the report and are working with the membership on how we best respond to its recommendations. Our focus remains on the need to deliver value for our colleges and to ensure that our work furthers the learning experiences and outcomes of their students.”
Poorly rated Gazelles trail behind the herd – June 2014
Teach primary kids to make money, says college boss – November 2013