Chartered status for FE providers is just months away, the chair of the new Institution for Further Education has exclusively told FE Week.

The not-for-profit limited company has been given responsibility by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) for developing and launching the quality mark.

Its chair, Lord Lingfield, confirmed to FE Week that it was awaiting royal permission before it could start granting chartered status.

He said: “The acquisition of a charter is not a swift process and many criteria have to be fulfilled.” But, he added: “We expect negotiations to be completed within months.”

The Tory peer said the institution had leased offices in Victoria Street, Westminster, and appointed senior civil servant Ed Quilty as its chief executive. Lord Lingfield confirmed he had consulted earlier this year with 80 large and small providers on plans developed by the institution, which was launched before Christmas.

He added that a “small group” had been chosen from providers who responded to the consultation to “develop and refine” the proposals, but would not reveal their identities. One of the proposals consulted on was possible subscription fees, but Lord Lingfield declined to comment on how much each provider might have to pay. However, FE Week understands fees of up to £10,000 are being considered.

The Association of Colleges declined to comment on fees, but deputy chief executive, Gill Clipson, said last year that she “looked forward” to working with Lord Lingfield in developing chartered status.

“This work will build on his recommendations in last year’s report on professionalism within FE and, in this context, we will be interested to see how the charter will relate to his other recommendations concerning the establishment of a guild [Education and Training Foundation] and the role of inspection within FE,” she said.

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, warned many smaller providers might not consider it worth their while applying for chartered status if the subscription fee was too high.
He added official approval for providers could already be achieved through Ofsted reports and financial support from the Skills Funding Agency. He said: “It is hard to see what added value chartered status would bring.”

Chartered Status was originally supposed to have been launched at the start of this year and concern had been growing over the delay.

John Hyde, executive chairman of HIT Training, said: “Hopefully the delay in introducing it is because BIS is seeking to align the responsibilities of all the relevant bodies to improve the sector with joint quality criteria.”