More than £700,000 will be handed shared among 74 FE colleges to encourage young people to progress into higher education.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) has announced that £714,772 will be allocated to FE colleges with higher education provision between now and 2016 in a bid to improve collaboration with schools and other colleges.

The FE sector share is less than 6.5 per cent of the £11.020m total allocated to individual universities and colleges, and grants range from £2,534 for South Gloucestershire and Stroud College to £53,280 for Blackpool and The Fylde College.

It comes less than four years after Aimhigher, a scheme which had the same goals but had a much larger budget, was scrapped by the government.

The grants are part of Hefce’s new national networks for collaborative outreach (NNCO), set up with initial Department for Business, Innovation and Skills funding of £22m for 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Madeleine Atkins

Madeleine Atkins

Thirty five local networks will get £240,000 each over the two years, with further grants for individual providers.

Some networks will be led by existing Aimhigher regional initiatives that survived the scrapping of the national service in 2011 by seeking funding from schools and universities.

Nick Davy, Association of Colleges higher education policy manager, told FE Week: “Hefce is right to invest money to encourage more young people into higher education and the NNCO is a useful scheme. However, it has been led by universities in sub-regions and that has meant that in some regions colleges are not involved in the networks.

“We have been in discussions with Hefce officers to address these gaps to ensure that could ensure the vast majority of colleges are involved in networks.”

As well as the local networks, three more national networks will give advice and support to specific groups of students, including adult learners and care leavers. Hefce has also launched a website for colleges to find their nearest network, and individual networks will run their own sites with information about outreach activity.

Hefce chief executive Madeleine Atkins said: “We set out to establish coverage of state-funded secondary schools and sixth form colleges and, through the support of the sector, this will be achieved.

“As well as providing co-ordinated coverage of outreach activity, we are keen that the NNCO scheme contributes innovative approaches to the interaction between higher education institutions and
schools and colleges.”