‘Boost FE with higher education cash’ report from Policy Exchange due

The government is expected to face calls to boost FE budgets with funding from the higher education sector in a new report.

The Policy Exchange is due to publish its report on Monday (October 19) and it is thought the conclusions will include a rebalancing of government finances towards the two sectors.

It comes after Jonathan Simons, head of education at the right-leaning think-tank, which counts Skills Minister Nick Boles as founder, said the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) should divert cash from universities to help FE, which is “falling over”.

In an exclusive interview with FE Week, and expanding on his above comments from the Northern Rocks pedagogy conference in Leeds in June, he said the government needed to ensure value for money for “all students, regardless of what route they take”.

Mr Simons said: “In advance of a challenging spending review, we need to think hard about how we best spend all available government funds. When it comes to post-secondary education, the field is currently skewed in favour of higher education.”

The Skills Funding Agency announced in July that FE providers faced a cut of 3.9 per cent on their non-apprenticeship adult skills budgets between August and March 2016.

It came on top of cuts of up to 24 per cent already made to adult skills budgets earlier this year.

Mr Simons said: “When the adult skills budget is being cut by 24 per cent in 2015/16, and at the same time the higher education sector reports discretionary reserves for 2013/14 equivalent to just under half of their entire annual income, I’d expect BIS to think hard and work with colleges, universities, employers and training providers to ensure value for money in education for all students after the age of 18, regardless of what route they take and which qualifications they study.”

A BIS spokesperson said: “Any funding decisions will be made following the spending review.”

Mr Simons’ comments come with the adult skills budget having been cut by 24 per cent since 2009-10. And, according to the National Audit Office, more than one-in-four of the entire FE college network could effectively go bankrupt within 12 months.

Image: cartoon from edition 142 of FE Week

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