No consultation on FE funding

19th May 1995 at 01:00
Ian Nash's article on the Further Education Funding Council's allocations (TES, May 5) quotes me as saying "we will have to teach 6 per cent more students for no more money". This is true, but only goes halfway towards explaining the widespread disquiet about the FEFC's recent decisions to rein in "high-funded" colleges in their expansion plans. There are a number of more important criticisms.

First, the allocation process changed at the last minute without consultation. This whipped the rug from under colleges who have earnestly shared three-year plans with the FEFC. These included staffing strategies, financial projections and property plans based on assumptions that are now in doubt.

Second, the new criterion makes it more difficult for high-funded colleges to lower costs calmly. Offering expansion at marginal cost to cheap colleges actually widens the unit cost gap rather than closing it - and makes no saving either.

Third, it works against student opportunities and the achievement of the national training targets. Further improvements in the numbers achieving qualifications will require growth in the inner cities at the very colleges that are now being hacked back. To take a local example, it seems plain daft to hold back growth in an area with the highest youth unemployment in Britain.

A number of principals and FEFC offices share the worry that the reason available funds have now proved insufficient to meet planned growth is the number of "franchise" and "outreach" schemes. These have created impressive, if improbable, growth records for the colleges which were quick off the mark, but they offer no increase in skill levels and cut the money available for real expansion. It is here that any cuts should fall. How sad that the FEFC, which has created such a good reputation for consulting its sector, has chosen this most important of decisions - how to fund increased achievement - as the one to launch without proper discussion.

ADRIAN PERRY

Principal

Lambeth College, Clapham Centre

45 Clapham Common Southside

London SW4

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