FE college higher education provision shows the growing impact of close-to-home access in widening student participation, according to a report by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF).
ETF’s College Higher Education Local Impact Summary compares provision between colleges and higher education institutions in 2015-16.
Among findings, colleges gained more than 80% of their HE students based in their Local Enterprise Partnership areas. More than 45% of higher level apprentices at colleges lived in areas where HE students were scarcest.
In addition, 151,360 HE learners were attending college, while in the previous three years students enrolling in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) rose by 5.7% to 32,690 and HE apprenticeships more than doubled to over 16,000.
FE colleges in England have seen their financial reserves drop by around £1.08bn between 2010-11 and 2015-16 to £2.61bn, according to TES analysis. Key causes are thought to be a mix of government cutbacks, capital expenditure and a change in pensions provision. Currently, 41 colleges in poor financial health have been issued with a notice of concern under the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Approach to Intervention strategy.
Learndirect, the UK’s largest adult and apprenticeship training provider, will see all DfE funding withdrawn by July 2018, following last week’s lowest or ‘inadequate' (grade 4) inspection rating by Ofsted, reports FE Week. Existing learners will, however, be able to finish courses up to that time.
The provider, which relies almost entirely on government contracts for some 73,000 trainees overall, failed to legally prevent publication of Ofsted’s verdict which it says does not reflect its true performance.
In March, inspectors found 70% of Learndirect’s 23,000 apprentices had not reached minimum overall achievement standards in 2015-16, and 60% did not finish their apprenticeships on schedule. Overall, Ofsted criticised the provider’s management for not having reacted fast enough to raise standards over the past three years.
According to research carried out by the Financial Times and FE Week, in the four years since Learndirect was privatised in 2011, managers and financiers were paid 84% of the cash generated by the operating business.
Other findings show a third of Learndirect’s trainee apprentices did not get off-the-job training as required. Also, no evidence was found of learning plans or progress tracking among apprentices picked at random.
Colleges can potentially save tens of thousands of pounds by signing up to an e-book library catering for students retaking maths and English GCSEs, reports FE News. A further 15 free digital text books are now available to download from the sector’s technology body, Jisc, to add to the initial 23 titles when the library was launched last September. The books – free to Jisc members – cater for the five main examining boards (AQA, SQA, OCR, Pearson Edexcel and WJEA) and include practice and revision titles. Jisc says each fully downloaded eBook can save a college up to £20.