Covid-19 and colleges - a report on online learning and college finances (4 May 2020)

08 May 2020

The national shutdown put into effect by the UK government in March 2020 to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak has had a profound effect on colleges and their students. For the first time since the 1940s there was a government instruction to close all schools and colleges on 18 March 2020 but, unlike then, education has continued online and, for a few students, in person. Seven weeks on, there are discussions about a general restart, including reopening colleges, but it is clear that this will not be normality as we know it.

To assist discussion about what needs to happen now, AoC issued a survey to the leaders of the 244 colleges in England on 21st April with a return date of 28th April. 125 surveys were returned – more than 90% by principals or chief executives plus 7 other returns from leaders of associate member colleges (sixth form colleges constituted as 16-19 academies, independent specialist colleges)

This report

 explains and discusses the survey results in four main sections:
  • Teaching and learning since the shutdown
  • Finance, funding and staffing
  • Oversight of colleges
  • Reopening and restarting

On college finances, the report identifies four main issues: 

  • A substantial loss of income in the 2019-20 from apprenticeships, summer term enrolments, international students, catering and a range of other commercial activities, adding up to about £150 million or 2% of total income. This is a similar percentage to the reduction reported by UUK for UK universities but the hit for some colleges - particularly those with lots of employer facing activity, land-based provision or international students is much larger.
  • Some short-term savings for colleges from furloughing staff, travel and agreeing cost reductions on contracted-out services offset by some additional costs, for example in purchases of IT equipment and software. Several colleges will defer building works and staff reductions which they would normally have carried out in the summer. This will conserve cash but could store up costs for the future.
  • Major uncertainty and risks on all non-grant income lines in 2020-1 outside the 16-18 funding or adult education budget. As with universities, this leaves a major sum at risk – as much as £2 billion (40%) for colleges – though a lot depends on what students, employers, government and colleges themselves do between now and Christmas.
  • A risk that the crisis will knock some commercially focused colleges very hard and compound financial issues for colleges who were already financially stretched, resulting in mounting problems for individual institutions in the run up to March 2021.

 

 

The full report is available here 

Any questions about the report's evidence or findings, please contact julian.gravatt@aoc.co.uk