The best option is often to share services

26th March 2010 at 00:00

According to FE Focus (March 12), many colleges may need to implement measures - such as mergers and shared services - that can see operational costs go down. ("Colleges urged to outsource services and save thousands" and "Turnaround head warns mergers can cause decline.")

Our research suggests that successfully managed mergers can not only solve major funding problems, but also deliver greater value to learners. Investing in shared services can reduce further education colleges' administrative budgets significantly.

We welcome the success of Michael Sheehan (pictured) in turning around Riverside College Halton and we agree that embarking on significant change, such as a merger, can lead to colleges losing sight of their primary purpose: effective teaching and learning.

FE must balance the need to maintain high quality teaching and learning with the financial pressures that we face. Practically, this means: communicating a clear vision; keeping staff involved but focused on consistent delivery to students throughout the change; and understanding that the full benefits do not materialise overnight.

The sector has, quite rightly, been wary of the "bigger is better" approach to education management and we, therefore, recognise that there is no magic "one-size-fits-all" solution. Over the past few years, however, we have learnt much and there is a lot of useful experience to share.

As funding conditions worsen, many in the sector may have little choice but to combine resources and work collaboratively to survive the coming decade of funding shortages. When well managed, both mergers and shared services may well be the best option.

John Stone, Chief executive, Learning and Skills Network.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today