Tuesday, February 20, 2007

FE colleges - the story of Barnsley College

Today’s Guardian carries a fascinating account of the problems that Barnsley College had – leading to the corruption conviction of a former lecturer last week.

I saw several Further Education colleges fail in the 1990s but was not familiar with the details of what happened at Barnsley College.

From the article it looks like another case where weak governance was part of the mix.

Many of the problems at colleges back then were also the product of a faulty response to the then government’s pressure on colleges to cut costs and grow at an incredible (often a literally unbelievable) rate – this often involved sub-contracting new provision out to “franchising” partners.

The response of the Further Education Funding Council (the forerunner of the Learning and Skills Council) was always to tighten regulations. Unfortunately this had its own problems.

I think that governance is now stronger at colleges but I fear that some problems may start to re-emerge as the funding constraints increasingly tighten towards the end of the decade.

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