Institutes of technology ‘should be within existing colleges’

Major FE players claim they are well-placed to deliver government’s new IoTs

Julia Belgutay

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The government may claim that its new institutes of technology are key to delivering the “higher-level science, technology, engineering and maths skills that local employers want and need”, but details still remain rather thin on the ground.

Now, colleges are aiming to seize the initiative by calling for the institutes to be housed within existing institutions.

TES can reveal that in the absence of official guidance, sector representatives, including the 157 Group and Association of Colleges (AoC), are drawing up their own proposals for how the new institutions should be structured and governed.

One of the first colleges to go public with its interest in creating an IoT has also raised concerns about colleges having to create a separate trust, in the same way as they do for a university technical college (UTC).

Support is growing within the sector for IoTs to sit within existing college or group structures.

Westminster Kingsway College and City and Islington College plan to merge this summer, and the institutions have already expressed their interest in creating an institute of technology in central London. But Westminster Kingsway principal Andy Wilson told TES that he was “wary” of handing over college assets to a new IoT trust.

“We don’t want to take that risk,” he said. “It needs to fit in the corporate and governance structure of the new college.”

‘Economies of scale’

After completing its recent strategic review, the 157 Group, which represents 26 colleges across the UK, is looking to set the IoT agenda.

Chief executive Ian Pretty told TES that college groups already collaborated successfully with employers in their regions, a key consideration for IoTs.

Existing group structures could also offer economies of scale, as well as a means of progression for learners from levels 1 and 2 through to qualification at levels 3, 4 and 5. “Big further education colleges are well-placed to deliver this,” Mr Pretty added.

Sarah Robinson, Stoke on Trent College chief executive and chair of the 157 Group, said: “We could start to scope and shape what an institute of technology might look like using existing infrastructure and resources, but trying to create something new.”

Lack of guidance

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) is yet to publish any concrete details about how IoTs will be established or operated, but the ongoing area reviews of college provision have been asked as part of their remit to consider whether existing colleges could be candidates to become IoTs. Official guidance, however, is at pains to stress that “careful consideration and quality assurances will be required”.

TES understands that Bis officials are likely to test a variety of “different institutional and governance models”, and have agreed to consider structures proposed by both the 157 Group and AoC.

An AoC spokeswoman confirmed it was in discussions with Bis about IoTs, adding: “We have always been clear that any new institutions should complement what colleges are already providing.”

A Bis spokeswoman said IoTs would be “quality, sustainable organisations that work with existing provision”.

“We continue to work closely with bodies from across the sector to develop potential models,” she added.

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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