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IT bulk-buying could save millions

Colleges could save tens of millions of pounds by buying new computer systems collectively, according to a Westminster Government agency.

Joint procurement agreements would allow colleges to save money by bulk- buying hardware and operating systems, believes Becta, the educational technology agency.

It is working with the Government to quantify the financial benefits of aggregate procurement agreements. It will also look at how new technologies might save staff time and energy.

"Part of the work will be looking at potential savings across FE," said Jane Williams, Becta's executive director of further education. "It will give updated projections of what might be possible in value-for-money terms."

Becta has previously worked on collaborative purchasing systems across schools in England, resulting in savings of pound;185 million between 2005 and 2008. It believes that in many cases schools and local authorities could reduce their costs by a third by banding together on purchases.

Ms Williamson said savings of tens of millions of pounds were likely in FE, but the level would vary between colleges. The other part of Becta's work will involve case studies of how technology is being used to make additional internal savings.

"Everyone wants to protect the front-line experience of learners by reducing unnecessary costs," Ms Williamson said.

Becta plans to publish interim findings by the end of this year and to report fully by March next year.

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