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Managing colleges’ financial sustainability


Following our report earlier this year on the future of University Technical Colleges, the Committee is launching an inquiry into the financial sustainability across Further Education and sixth-form colleges.

The NAO recently reported on the Department for Education’s efforts to prevent colleges from getting into financial difficulty and supporting them when they do. However, these approaches have absorbed considerable amounts of public money, while many colleges remain in financial difficulty.

Overall, the financial health of the college sector remains fragile. Ofsted inspection ratings suggest that colleges are generally maintaining educational quality, but other evidence shows that financial pressures are affecting wider aspects of provision such as the breadth of the curriculum and levels of student support.

The programme of area reviews led to structural change and had some success in making the college sector more financially secure. The Department is now formulating a strategic reform programme intended to remedy systemic long-term weaknesses in the sector. This is a welcome development but, until such a programme is in place and achieving results, it is not clear Department is responding effectively to the financial sustainability challenges that colleges are facing.

The Committee will question senior officials at the Department for Education and the Education & Skills Finding Agency. If you have evidence on these issues, please submit it here before 6.00pm Wednesday 18 November.