Attempt to ‘simplify’ funding may prove barrier to FE loans

A consultation on proposals for a further education loans system is set to close today (October 21).

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has said the proposals, which would charge apprentices and adult learners at Level 3 and above up to £4,000, will “be determined in a simple and straightforward way”.

The maximum loan amount available for each course would be decided by a new set of simplified funding rates, which are due to be fully implemented by the Skills Funding Agency in 2013/14.

However, a survey conducted by Lsect has shown that the sector is concerned that the proposals will in fact complicate funding for learners aged 19 and above.

In one hour there were 35 responses to the online survey, of which 60 per cent said they thought simplification would not be achieved.

In comparison less than 9 per cent said they thought the changes would make funding easier.

Arthur Smith, MIS Manager at Stafford College, said: “Every time anyone has simplified anything in FE things have only got more complex. For 15 years the bureaucratic burden has been talked about with a view to reducing it… and nothing but extra work for less funding has been achieved.”

Some respondents said a simplified model could never be suitable for managing adult funding.

Philip Smith, User Support & Reporting Coordinator at Leicester College, said: “Effective funding methodologies can’t be simple, especially for 19+ funding. What they need to be is clear and understandable.”

Martin Kennedy, Office Supervisor at Truro & Penwith College Business Centre, added: “Changes in funding always end up more complex, as they go through several drafts and the last one rarely bears any resemblance to the first.  Just look at the appalling chaos of the Specification for Apprenticeship Standards in England (SASE) and the number of missed deadlines and confusion that still surrounds it.”

Tim Porter, 16 – 24 LLDD Commissioning Support Officer at Somerset County Council, added: “I think there are too many organisations with vested interests for this to ever be fully achieved.”

Others said that the funding rates could end up being too simple and damage the success of the loans system.

Donald Lush, Manager at the Harington Scheme, said:  “I think that it’s high risk.  My view of the proposed simplification (so far) is that it is oversimplified and may need to be revisited because of the unintended consequences of this.”

You can respond to the Lsect survey via SurveyMonkey here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FE-loans

FE Week will be publishing the results of the consultation as they become available.

Responses to the BIS consultation can be made addressed to Andrew King via email (feloans@bis.gsi.gov.uk) by the end of today. You may also wish to leave a comment on the FE Week website below.