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OfS must recognise crucial role of FE in funding decisions, says AoC

14 March 2024

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In response to the Office for Students (OfS) consultation on public grant funding, Arti Saraswat, Senior Policy Manager, Association of Colleges said

"We welcome this call for evidence and OfS engagement with the sector at an early stage of policy development. We will be working with our members to submit a full response in due course.

"Given the changing context of higher education (HE), it is right to question and review how the public grant funding distributed by the OfS can be best utilised to benefit students, taxpayers and the HE sector. There is a need to not only to reconsider the strategic priorities but also the approach to the distribution of funds.

"When thinking about how public grant funding can be used most impactfully, we urge the OfS to pay close attention to the crucial role further education (FE) plays in meeting the skills needs of local and regional economies as well as providing access to HE for students across the country. FE colleges have been delivering HE for almost a century, and there are currently around 100,000 people studying HE in a FE college, and 152 colleges are registered with the OfS.

"Just one example of an area in serious need of investment is Level 4 and 5 provision. The government has made it clear that it wants the number of students studying at Level 4 and 5 in England to increase; FE colleges are the key to making this happen.

"Currently FE colleges deliver 80% of Level 4 Higher National Certificates (HNCs), and 53% of Level 5 Higher National Diplomas (HNDs). However, given the current conditions, offering new and often high-cost provision at Levels 4 and 5 is financially risky and unattractive. We have been clear that colleges are in desperate need of sustained levels of funding to ensure they have the expertise and facilities to ensure as many students as possible benefit from these qualifications."