Many thanks to the excellent newsletter written by Alan Birks for Click for this posting
In the not too distant past, FE and HE co-operated with each other to increase and widen participation in HE. However, a report published on 17 March by the Social Market Foundation (see here) says that this cooperation has now been replaced by aggressive competition. The report says that a combination of the lifting of caps on student numbers and higher fees, means that universities have been incentivised to maximise their income from fees and deliver courses themselves, rather than subcontract out some of the provision to FE colleges. Universities have also moved into areas traditionally considered to be the territory of FE colleges, including not only courses at Level 4 and 5, such as HNC/Ds and vocational foundation degrees, but also higher and advanced apprenticeships, and even some vocational courses at Level 3. The report concludes that colleges are the losers, saying ‘It is hard to envisage fair competition occurring between universities and FE colleges in their present form, given the scale and financial advantages universities currently enjoy, with higher per student funding, greater financial capacity to invest and more immediate rewards for expansion, while at the same time, colleges have been squeezed by significant year-on-year cuts in funding for their core activities’.