Thousands of lecturers have been sacked to pay for aggressive competition between colleges and to employ armies of bureaucrats to do the work of the old town hall mandarins, research by NATFHE has revealed.
The lecturers' union is to press the Labour Government for a "sweep-out" of the waste which, it said, matches that of the worst excesses in the National Health Service.
In some areas, there are more FE bureaucrats in a single college than there were in the whole local education authority running the service before incorporation in 1993.
Evidence has emerged in detailed studies carried out by NATFHE branches in the run-up to the general election. Market forces have driven up competition but killed off economies of scale. The huge numbers of LEA bureaucrats, which the Tories pledged to cut, have grown ten-fold in some areas.
The evidence, discussed at conference, mirrors concerns among employers in the Association of Colleges. Its research suggests that desired mergers have been scuppered by territorial disputes, vested interests and the refusal of principals and governors to give up power.
The AOC wants reforms which would allow consortia of colleges to pool services and resources (TES, May 23). But NATFHE rejects this as a half-measure which would not guarantee increased investment in teaching. The union executive is to trawl its branches for evidence of waste and back it with national research which will be put to the Government within 12 months.
Dan Taubman, NATFHE assistant secretary heading the research, told The TES: "I want to move on it this year and convince the Government that it should be tackling the issue of management waste in FE just as it is in the NHS."
Steve Jeyes, a delegate for East Midlands region, said the Nottinghamshire area committee sought information for a campaign against the current system of incorporation and FE funding. "It was detailed research," he said.
"Even the principals know the costs are unbearable. My principal wrote a widely-publicised letter in the press stating that it was costing our college #163;100,000 a year just to produce the mass of statistics the FEFC demands."
The Nottinghamshire NATFHE survey findings show typical college costs for management, business, and finance managers and personnel average #163;688,000, while having to cut #163;600,000 through lecturer redundancies.
And while teaching staff averages have dropped 15 per cent from 105 full-time equivalent to 90, support staff numbers have risen 36 per cent from 99 to 135.
Greg Cejer, also from the East Midlands, said: "Every college must have an accountant and head of personnel and other such staff. One Lincolnshire college has a director, four senior officers and three senior administrators - more than used to run further education for the local authority."
If such trends reflect the national picture, this would suggest that #163;300 million could be saved by eliminating unnecessary duplication - more than enough for the 10,000 lecturers made redundant since 1993 and very close to the #163;350m Health Secretary Frank Dobson said was "wasted" by the internal market of the health service.