As College mergers plateau following the Area Review process and Universities begin a review of tuition fees, horizontal to vertical integration in post-compulsory education could make a lot of strategic sense. For some, it may be a necessity. FE Week reports.
As every leader in further education will know, the purpose of the Area Reviews according to the original documentation was to “ensure that we have the right capacity to meet the needs of students and employers in each area, provided by institutions which are financially stable and able to deliver high quality provision”.
In short this was code for less and in theory more financially stable Colleges enabled by a series of mergers.
As the composition of the skills landscape, and our economy, changes with the rising status and criticality of vocational and technical routes alongside academic degrees it makes strategic sense for University and College leaders to look afresh at the operating environment, and towards a different collaborative future.
The contention of this article is that it’s timely for this to change if we are to ensure that we have stable and financially secure further and higher education institutions for the future.
Education is evolving
Back when Colleges were incorporated in 1993 there were broadly 450, today that figure stands at 273. Of the 52 mergers originally proposed by the further education Area Review process, fifteen collapsed or materially changed.
As the education sector has been dealing with austerity for years, consultants looking for efficiencies to justify a merger have often found that the sums don’t add up, whilst banks get nervous as the risk profile increases.
College and University alignment offers a different solution, and one where the required underlying factors necessary to support sustainable collaborations are more likely to be present with conditions that are more likely to be genuinely transformational.
Do you think joining forces will work? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin
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