Capital projects worth £400 million given green light

The government's flagship college capital investment programme awards a further £400 million, but rising prices bring costs in to question.

The government's flagship college capital investment programme awards a further £400 million, but rising prices bring costs in to question.

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Sixty-two colleges have been successful in the latest round of funding from the Further Education Capital Transformation Fund (FECTF). 

The government committed £1.5 billion over five years to the FECTF in the March 2020 Budget in a pledge to “upgrade and transform the FE college estate”. 

The Department for Education is today announcing the names of 62 colleges that will receive a share of £400 million from the second stage of the FECTF.

The amount of funding each college has been allocated for stage 2 has not been released due to “commercial sensitivities.”

Most colleges, 182 altogether, received a grant, in stage 1 of the FECTF programme in 2020. Of the 62 announced today, four are receiving cash from the fund for the first time.

Minister for skills, Alex Burghart, said today:

“Our priority is making sure that every student receives the high-quality training needed to secure a well-paid job, so that businesses in growth sectors such as construction, engineering and digital have a strong talent pipeline as can continue to level up opportunities across the country.

“That is why we are investing to ensure colleges can create modern, fit-for-purpose spaces that meet the needs of students and the communities they serve – and most importantly continue to be fantastic places to learn.”

Capital bids: mystery over match funding

Bids had to be submitted according to strict criteria laid down by the DfE. For example, the fund is only open to further education college corporations and designated institutions and requests were considered primarily for projects which delivered renovations or remedial improvements to existing buildings that were demonstrably in need. 

The FECTF is separate from the post-16 capacity fund, which awarded £83 million, again, only to colleges, to build new facilities to accommodate rising numbers of 16-19 year-olds.

DfE guidance stated that the FECTF would contribute 50 per cent of the total project value, with colleges finding ‘match funding’ from sources such as their own reserves, commercial loans, donations or locally managed grant programmes such as the Towns Fund. 

Colleges were however able to apply for a “match funding waiver” if they could prove they were unable to raise the amount of required match funding themselves for the work that was needed.

The DfE was asked by FE Week if any match funding waivers had been applied in this round, however our request was refused again on grounds of “commercial sensitivities.”

Prices of materials set to soar

Applications were opened for stage 2 in July 2021 and closed in early October 2021.

Colleges have been advised by their representative body, the Association of Colleges, to re-assess their plans in light of the much more precarious state of the economy today than six months ago when their bids were finalised. 

In a briefing for AoC members, its deputy chief executive Julian Gravatt wrote that “there are predictions of continuing inflation and shortages in the construction sector so it would be sensible for any college that is offered funding to consider its ability to complete the project on the terms offered.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy publishes monthly statistics on the prices of building materials such as bricks, cement and concrete blocks.

According to Construction News, these figures show that prices rose in 11 of the 12 months of 2021. This has also prompted the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) to warn that prices for some materials have surged a further 20 per cent in 2022, with “further inflationary pressure expected as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.”

Today’s announcement means that around £600 million has now been allocated from the FECTF. In August 2020, just over £200 million was awarded to colleges in a ‘fast-tracked’ process a year ahead of schedule. 

Colleges receiving funding

Abingdon and Witney CollegeLoughborough College
Aylesbury College (Buckinghamshire College Group)Middlesbrough College
Barnfield CollegeMilton Keynes College
Bath CollegeNelson and Colne College
Birmingham Metropolitan CollegeNew City College
Boston CollegeNewham College
Bradford CollegeNorth Shropshire College (Hereford, Ludlow and North Shropshire College)
Broadstairs College (EKC Group)Nottingham College
Brooklands CollegeOaklands College
Bury CollegePeterborough Regional College (Inspire Education Group)
Calderdale CollegeSalford City College
Canterbury College (EKC Group)Sandwell College
Central Bedfordshire CollegeSEEVIC College
Cheshire College South and WestShipley College
Chesterfield CollegeSolihull College and University Centre
Chichester CollegeSouth and City College Birmingham
City and Islington College (Capital City College Group)South Devon College
City College NorwichSouth Staffordshire College
College of North West LondonSouth Tyneside College
Cornwall CollegeStoke on Trent College
Croydon CollegeTameside College
Doncaster College and University Centre (DN Colleges Group)The City Literary Institute
Dudley College of TechnologyThe City of Liverpool College
Farnborough College of TechnologyThe College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (Capital City College Group)
Furness CollegeThe Manchester College (LTE Group)
Greater Brighton Metropolitan CollegeThe Mary Ward Centre
Halesowen CollegeTyne Metropolitan College (Tyne Coast College)
Lambeth CollegeWaltham Forest College
Leeds City CollegeWest Nottinghamshire College
Leicester CollegeWestminster Kingsway College (Capital City College Group)
London South East CollegesWiltshire College
Source: Department for Education

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