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Higher education in further education colleges

Set against the background of changes to the student support and teaching funding regimes, further education (FE) White paper 'Raising Skills, Improving Life Chances' and the Leitch review of skills we have set out to develop a consistent and coherent policy on the contribution of colleges to HE.

We issued a consultation in November 2006 that sought views on the four main elements of our policy for supporting higher education (HE) in further education colleges (FECs). These are:

  • the distinctive contribution of HE in FECs to the overall pattern of HE provision
  • the strategic development of HE in FECs
  • funding and relationships
  • Centres for HE Excellence in FECs.

The analysis of the responses prepared for us by Professor Gareth Parry and Dr Anne Thompson at the University of Sheffield shows very strong support for our proposals, with the exception of changing our existing formulaic allocation of capital funding to a large capital fund for FECs.

The HEFCE Board has agreed to our proposals for implementing our strategy, based upon the outcome of the consultation. These are explained in Circular Letter 27/2007.

Funding powers

Circular letter 22/2008 explains HEFCE's funding powers for FECs and, in particular, why we are generally unable to offer direct funding to colleges for individual higher education modules.

FECs' HE strategies

At its meeting of 5 July 2007 the HEFCE Board agreed to the implementation of the requirement for FECs to submit HE strategies through a pilot involving some 30 strategies spread across the regions. The pilot was completed in June 2008. It raised issues for us that cannot be resolved within the model for appraisal of FECs HE strategies adopted. This came through in the evaluation of the pilot commissioned from the University of Sheffield.

In our original timetable we were due to present a paper to the September meeting with recommendations on how we would like to proceed. Instead we shall provide such a paper for the December meeting. This will give us the necessary time to reconsider how we might better achieve our original objective of a more strategic approach to the provision of HE in FECs. We are aiming for a process that promotes enhancement of colleges' strategic thinking about HE provision, is low burden, and generally acceptable to FECs and HEIs in partnerships with colleges.

FECs' HE strategy pilot 2007-08: institutions in the pilot

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HEFCE guidance for FECs' higher education strategy pilot

[ MS Word 87K | Zipped MS Word 24K | Adobe PDF 29K | Zipped Adobe PDF 21K ]

Further information

For further information please contact Ruth Tucker, tel 0117 931 7367, e-mail

Further information and publications about HE in FECs

Last updated 2 October 2008