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HEFCE-funded higher education institutions and further education colleges wishing to submit should return completed business cases by Monday 25 September 2017.

Dear Vice-Chancellor or Principal

Catalyst Fund: Call for bids – closing the skills gap and supporting the Industrial Strategy through curriculum development

1. HEFCE-funded higher education institutions and further education colleges are invited to submit proposals for projects for curriculum development that will close skills gaps and thereby stimulate support for and sustain economic growth locally and regionally, in line with the priorities of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

2. Funding of up to £200,000 per successful bid is available from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund. The deadline for submitting bids is noon on Monday 25 September 2017.

3. The Catalyst Fund provides targeted support for project-based activity led by universities and colleges to support HEFCE and government objectives. As well as providing opportunities for institutions to apply for funding for their own innovative projects, we also use the fund to issue calls for bids in specific areas. In our bidding guidance we state that Catalyst funding is used most effectively by universities and colleges in collaboration – with employers, with each other, and with other funding bodies and key partners.

4. We expect to fund a range of proposals, relating to institutions’ own strategies and strengths, and in line with local and regional skills requirements and economic growth priorities. Further information, including the application process, selection criteria and timescale, is provided in Annex A. The template for bids is at Annex B.

5. The Catalyst Fund remains open for bids in other priority areas, but we are unlikely to take forward unrelated bids for curriculum development whilst this call is running. This can be discussed further, if necessary, with HEFCE institutional teams.

6. Funding is available to higher education institutions and further education colleges that are directly funded by HEFCE. Based on the legal restrictions on our funding responsibilities, we can consider proposals from directly funded further education colleges only where these are to develop and deliver prescribed courses of higher education.

Complying with state aid and other relevant legislation

8. We set out our general expectation that HEFCE-funded higher education institutions and further education colleges will have regard to state aid compliance in relation to all our funding in the ‘Memorandum of assurance and accountability between HEFCE and institutions’ (HEFCE 2016/12) and the Catalyst Fund bid pack. We may need to ask for some information on state aid in finalising awards for successful bids where this is relevant, to comply with current European Commission monitoring information. 

Freedom of information

8. HEFCE is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which gives a public right of access to information held by a public authority. This may result in applications, communications between us and institutions, information arising from this work, or the outputs from the work undertaken being subject to disclosure if a valid request is made to us. We will comply with such requests in accordance with the legislation and our own policies.

9. Institutions can, if they wish, provide potentially sensitive information (such as information relating to commercial interests) in a separate annex attached to the business case. This will highlight to us that there are concerns about disclosure. With such annexes, the proposal must not exceed the maximum length as stated in the business case template.

10. Where we consider it to be appropriate and practicable we will seek the views of applicants before disclosing this information in response to a Freedom of Information request. Applicants should be aware that even when concerns have been expressed, HEFCE may nevertheless be obliged to disclose this information. Our assumption will be that all information in the main application documents can be disclosed on request.

11. Further information about the Freedom of Information Act is available at

Action required

12. Higher education institutions and eligible further education colleges are invited to complete the business case template at Annex B and email it to by noon on Monday 25 September 2017.

Yours sincerely

Professor Madeleine Atkins

Chief Executive

Date: 13 July 2017

Ref: Circular letter 24/2017

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded further education colleges, Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Learning and teaching; Employability, workforce development, continuing professional development and skills; Regional and local development

Enquiries should be directed to:

Matt Jennings, tel 0117 931 7157, email