Anger as Swindon network spreads;FE Focus

5th February 1999 at 00:00
SWINDON College has come under fire from neighbouring principals for running learning centres on their doorsteps.

The college has just opened a learning centre in Cirencester - its eighth. It also runs centres in Oxford, Slough, Reading, Swindon, two in Bristol and Basingstoke - the latter in partnership with Basingstoke College of Technology.

It is estimated that 7,000 students will use the facilities this year, and Swindon hails the scheme and its collaboration with Basingstoke as a success.

But neighbouring colleges have questioned the fairness of the expansion. Principals say it is a franchising legacy which left Swindon with funding for more courses than it could deliver locally.

Cirencester College has protested to the Further Education Funding Council about the latest centre.

Desna McAll, vice principal, said: "We are very distressed that the funding methodology has forced a situation where colleges are moving into areas that we quite rightly are funded to serve.

"There was no consultation. They didn't seek to collaborate. They are now looking at possibly giving us access to put some guidance staff into their centre and put some display materials in.

"To find another college setting up a centre in your locality isn't pleasing particularly when we have been involved in a high-level project with all the colleges in Gloucestershire to bring learning on-line."

Swindon College spokesman Phil Neave said: "We did a bit of franchising over the years when it was seen to be OK. We have seen it as a growth situation so units obviously have been moved in that direction."

"Until the funding system changes this will happen. While there are customers out there who are looking for something that's innovative then we will be there."

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