July 25, 2017

The Underfunding Challenge

About Underfunding: FE Underfunding Can Lead to Debts and Notices of Financial ConcernThe Underfunding Challenge

FE is facing new challenges every term. Many of these were identified in the recent JISC survey of senior FE staff who were asked to rate six challenges. There was a large level of agreement over the feedback with the major challenge identified being about how to create a financially viable organisation .. and underfunding is a key issue here. 

Challenge number two was how to create an agile organisation that can anticipate and react to change.

Listing challenges is relatively easy. But implementing workable solutions is much harder. First you need a viable solution. Then you need to implement it. And both steps are challenges in their own right without guidance. We are here to guide you, challenge you, help you produce a roadmap and hold you accountable for your success.


But in a Sense FE is not Underfunded

One thing that became very obvious as we conducted our survey is that outstanding providers do things differently; they obey the rules but apply them in a different way.

My research has led me to the view that FE isn’t underfunded. In fact more than one CEO has told me that FE funding is still viable. However far too many providers have severe financial issues and Notices of Financial Concern are commonplace.

So what is the problem? Although the government has reduced funding in real terms the problem isn’t a lack of money; it’s actually about how the sector spends their limited budget and utilises its resources.

Of course some of the ways we have to spend it are dictated by government and we aren’t able to totally control our spending. But there are ways in which we can improve things and our mission at UnderfundingEducation is to work with our clients to produce a roadmap that will ensure your long term financial viability.


Underfunding: Answers Not Challenges

To discover the answers to the “underfunding” issue, and to produce a roadmap, we need to look to FE in the wider sense. For example whereas most colleges tend to spend huge sums on new buildings, often costing tens of £millions, the top echelon colleges and many private providers tend to do things differently. 

Thet also do things differently in every area, from curriculum and estates to IT, marketing and business development.

Of course some of them are stil financially challenged. They don’t have all the answers. But they are worth investigation all the same as some of their practices will benefit colleges


Underfunding: Researching Solutions

For more than a decade my team that has worked with over 200 providers. We’ve researched these providers on a regular basis and have found there are similar characteristics  running through providers that result in their specific location on the spectrum between outstanding and poor. Only the very best sit viable end if the spectrum.

Of course no single outstanding provider will exhibit all of the features our research identified as being characteristic of an outstanding provider. And to be a poor provider it is not necessary to exhibit every one of the characteristics that are inherent in even the worse poor provider. To be poor it only needs a few really bad characteristics to aggregate into a disastrous situation.   

In carrying out our research we have not limited ourselves to FE colleges and private providers in England. Where exemplars of good or bad practice are apparent we have dug deep to discover the whys and wherefores. Our main research is UK based, but we have also included colleges, universities and private providers of all sizes, as far away as the US, Europe and South Africa.


Underfunding: Changing the Rules of Engagement

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” Einstein

For decades we’ve run along familiar lines. There’s been a “formula”, a roadmap, a way of doing things, that has worked well. But in recent years things have changed. That formula hasn’t worked and increasing numbers of providers have experienced financial problems.

So we clearly need a new formula. We need a roadmap that will ensure long term financial viability. Because doing the same things as we’ve always done only leads to Notices of Financial Concern and Administration.


The Next Step

Contact the UnderfundedEducation team for an informal chat and details of how to build your roadmap to financial viability.


Our Thanks

We want to record our thanks to all that took part in our research and to share it with the sector in a bid to ensure outstanding becomes the norm.

To limit the size of this paper we have reduced this report to a series short statements covering a wide range of relevant topics. We are happy to elaborate on them on a one to one basis that could lead to the production of a tailored roadmap upon request.  Our contact details are StefanDrew@gmail.com   01404 891920

Additional; information about FE can be found at ProviderMasterMind.com 

Stefan Drew

July 2017