Agility the key to FE Colleges success

Posted by Toby Brown

From the cost-of-living crisis to the COVID pandemic and the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, there has been significant turbulence in society, education, and the political and economic spheres which define education policy. 

Traditionally, FE sites have been able to rely on their presence in the community to attract applicants. However, according to a recent study published by the government, post-16 education and training providers adapt by merging into much larger, more resilient institutions. As a result, the number of providers with a unique reference number has reduced by almost one-third from 313 in 2013 sites down to 216 in 2016. A notable contributor to this figure is the number of sixth-form colleges dropping by over fifty percent during this period, with many opting to merge with established General and Specialist FE Colleges.

There are benefits to being a part of a larger organisation, including financial security, shared resources, greater capacity to bid for additional funding, and centralised expertise on learners' welfare with the ability to specialise in specific qualifications, prioritising outcomes. This is reflected in the dataset provided in the study, where the percentage of sites being judged Good or Outstanding following inspection has increased. In contrast, the number of colleges judged as Requires Improvement or Inadequate has dropped by sixteen percent. Could smaller colleges banding together and merging into supergroups be a perfect solution for everyone? Not necessarily…

It is worth noting that while fewer sites now require inspection, there is a much larger task of inspecting those sites due to their larger footprint. In addition to the pressures that colleges face daily, the consequence of site growth is that the resource required to support a larger learning environment must also scale appropriately. Economies of scale can only stretch so far, particularly in further education's complex and changeable world. The balancing act of providing the best possible education and support for learners during their time at the college, meeting all inspection standards, and staying financially viable means adaptability is key: colleges need to be agile!

Critical business processes can be a dangerous combination of tedious and high risk. From the application to the enrolment journey to confirming and publishing results, manually completing these processes adds risk and cost. Mistakes around key financial activities like statutory returns, fees and invoicing, and booking exams can add huge costs in fines, additional audit burdens, and restrictions on provision. Automating these tasks, or adding best-practice digital processes, can relieve pressure and reassure stakeholders.

ebs allows learners to enquire, apply, and enrol, all within our Ontrack web systems, with bespoke data fields for each region to populate your funding returns automatically. The learner can report absences and attendance in class through secure, mobile-first pages easily surfaced in the Engage app, allowing front-desk staff to prioritise business work over manning phone lines for absence calls.

As processes evolve and standards change, manual work can quickly become redundant, requiring sites to invest more time and resources in accommodating these changes, requiring teams to retrain, and creating frustration. Having these systems as service-driven software solutions allows providers to place the burden of updating processes on the systems provider.

Solutions must be functional, adaptable, and scalable.

ebs can support sites to automate processes, reduce resource investment, and maintain compliance. Our platforms support the complete learner journey from enquiry to qualification. Our software solutions, including the Engage student mobile app and Dynamics for business engagement, integrate: ebs is retained as a single point of truth throughout all key activities, so nothing gets lost in translation as colleges evolve and pivot to meet local needs.

Interested in learning more about how Tribal ebs and Ontrack can help you evolve? Get in touch.


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