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BRIEFING NOTES FOR FE BIG DAY OUT IN LONDON
17TH NOVEMBER 1997

These notes are a general introduction to the work and the impact of the FEFC. We will provide further information on the day. You should use these notes as a guide to the position in your college.

How FE is funded

College Mergers

There has been an increase of colleges merging in the FE sector since its incorporation in 1993. This has mainly occurred between FE colleges whose primary mission is to deliver the FE curriculum. However, talks are under way between some of the new Universities and FE colleges within their vicinities on possible mergers. The rationale from the Universities is to create a feeder college into HE. However, the FEFC takes a dim view of this as proposals are not strong on guaranteeing a wide range of FE provision.

The FEFC have produced criteria for merging colleges. This includes colleges ensuring the following:


The Charter for Further Education.

All FE colleges will have a published charter based on the conditions laid down in the DFEE Charter for Further Education. It is a condition of funding that they do this. The College charters are inspected by the FEFC.

The Charter covers seven clear areas:


Charter Commitments

Evidence that NUS has gathered over the years reveals that there is massive variation in the quality and accessibility of local charters. This is particularly a problem in terms of the information that students are given at pre-enrolment and enrolment stages about the hours, timetabling and all costs associated with the course. Often this is inadequate or colleges make changes or charge costs which the student was not originally told about.

NUS believes that the principles laid down in the DFEE charter mean that colleges cannot do this and we have encouraged students to enter formal complaints through the college complaints procedure. Students who have done this have often complained about the slowness of the procedure. In some cases the complaints have not been resolved until the student had complained the course and left the college.

College complaints procedures on the whole do not tell students that they can take their complaint to the FEFC when the internal process has been exhausted.


The Inspection Framework

The FEFC has an inspection role of the colleges. The framework is laid down by the Quality Assessment Committee set up by the FEFC which NUS has a seat on.

There a three types of inspection:


The full inspections cover:


Assessments are set to a 5 point scale: grade 1 - Provision which has many strengths and few weaknesses.
grade 2 - Provision in which strengths clearly outweigh weaknesses
grade 3 - provision with a balance of strengths and weaknesses.
grade 4 - Provision in which the weaknesses clearly outweigh the strengths.
grade 5 - Provision which has many weaknesses and very few strengths.


In Terry Melia’s - The Chief Inspector for the FEFC - annual report the following should be noted:


College Governance

The FEFC produces guidance for Governors and for Clerks to Governing bodies. NUS carried out a survey across the FE sector in England and Wales which revealed that 106 governing bodies do not have a student member. The FEFC says that any college which does not have a student governor should set up alternative ways to allow students to make their views known. Over 24 colleges do not have any system according to our survey.

Many student governors are not offered the opportunity for training. Corporations have budgets for governor training and student governors should have equal access to this budget.


16 Hour Rul / Job Seekers Allowance

The ‘16 hour rule’ is a concession whereby unemployed claimants in receipt of Income Support are allowed to do some part-time study whilst looking for work. In October 1996 the Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) replaced Income Support and Unemployment Benefit for people who were unemployed and the 21 hour concession became 16 - it will also became more complicated as different conditions were attached to part-time study whilst unemployed depending on whether the course is a course of further or higher education and on whether the course is undertaken in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The jobsearch conditions attached to receipt of JSA will also became much stricter. The following conditions must, however, be met if those engaged in study are to retain their entitlement to Job Seekers Allowance:


Further Education Courses

There is limit of 16 ‘guided learning hours’ per week will apply to further education courses funded by the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) in England; it will also apply in Wales (although the FEFC in Wales does not actually use the 'guided learning hours' concept). There is a definition of a ‘full-time further education student in Scotland’: people who fall outside this category will be regarded as part-time and can study and keep their benefit so long as they fulfil the jobseeking requirements of JSA. In Northern Ireland the old full-time/part-time distinction still pertains: people can study and keep their benefit only if they are attending a part-time course. Higher Education Courses

The new ‘16 hour rule’ will not apply to courses of higher education where the fulltime/part-time distinction still exists - a Government Minister in the previous administration stated that 21 hours is still the threshold between part-time and full-time education in higher education.

What Student Unions' Should Do?
  • Make sure that the college has a designated fully-informed person acting as the contact point for all enquiries about claimants from the Employment Service (ES).

  • Make sure the College is marketing its courses in such a way that it is not placing claimant students at risk of benefit stops ie. calling courses full time.

  • Make sure that you know how to complete the ES form 'Attending an Education and Training Course.

  • Monitor how many claimant students are getting benefit stops.

  • Discuss with the college setting up a job club.

Childcare

Childcare facilities for students in colleges are generally thin on the ground. Where they do exist they offer very few places and tend to be dominated by the children of staff at the college. Those colleges that offer creches or nurseries to help students often lay down specific criteria i.e. students who are single parents.

The provision of school age childminding and baby sitting is very scarce. TEC's have money available through the DoE’s "Out of School Initiative" set up in 1992, for the provision of "kids clubs" aimed at school age children.

In 1995/96, in response to pressure from FE colleges, the FEFC agreed to pay additional funds to institutions offering free childchild to students. The money is not intended to meet the full cost of provision, but is meant to help spread costs.

Colleges can claim up to 33.3 additional funding units for each child per year, providing the student parent is: unemployed and receiving unemployment benefit: in receipt of a means-tested benefit: an unwaged dependant of those who are receiving unemployment or means-tested benefits: or taking a course where the primary goal is adult basic education or English for speakers of other languages.

A college claiming for 100 children would attract over £50,000 more a year. The price of setting up would be about £350,000.

Standards for childcare premises are laid down in the Childrens Act 1989 and monitored by local authorities.


What Should Students’ Unions Do?

  • Talk to student parents about the type of childcare they need and or flexibility in timetabling.

  • Use research to influence the college on provision.

Discretionary Awards

Local Education Authorities (LEAS) have powers under the Education Act 1962 to make discretionary awards. As the name suggests, discretionary awards are subject to local decision-making: LEAs determine their own policies regarding personal eligibility and type of course/subject supported. There are two categories of discretionary award: Section 1(6) awards for students on higher education courses designated for mandatory awards but who do not fulfil the personal eligibility criteria and Section 2 awards for non-designated courses of further and higher education. Section 2 awards can cover maintenance and/or fees: rates vary considerably across LEAS.

Discretionary awards are paid entirely out of the local authority's budget: as local authority budgets have been progressively capped by central government in recent years the discretionary awards system has virtually collapsed. In 1993194 - the latest year in respect of which official figures are available - only 82,000 Section 2 discretionary awards were available to those aged 18+ in the whole of England and Wales. Some LEAs no longer make any discretionary awards whatsoever. However, although expenditure on discretionary awards overall is declining, the number of further education discretionary awards has increased whilst the number of higher education discretionary awards has decreased.


What Should Students’ Unions Do?

  • Monitor the number of discretionary awards being made in your area.

  • When LEA's are setting their budgets, make sure that you write to councillors to remind them of their value.

Equal Opportunities

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and Race Relations Act 1976 define three main types of discrimination: direct, indirect and victimisation. FE colleges are brought under these acts by paragraphs 75 to 88 of schedule 8 to the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.

Both Acts make it unlawful to instruct or bring pressure on a person to discriminate or to publish and advertisement that is or is seen to be discriminatory on the grounds of race or sex.

In education, it is unlawful to discriminate in recruiting students, or providing access to benefits, facilities and services, in providing vocational training or in conferring vocational or professional qualifications. However, it is lawful to take ‘positive action’ - either by providing training and special encouragement for people of a particular racial group of either sex who have been under-represented in certain occupations or grades over the preceding year; or by addressing special educational, training or welfare needs identified for a particular group. Additionally, colleges must comply with those parts of the Acts relating to discrimination in employment.

Further legislation is framed in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (amended 1976)

Equal Opportunities policies that are deeply entrenched in all operations of the college, through regular review and training of those that implement them can:

  • increase student satisfaction with the college
  • strengthen and deepen its roots in the local community
  • improve the recruitment and retention of students by meeting their needs
  • attract the best job applicants by increasing respect within the community
  • attract partnership from a diverse number of agencies
  • will avoid the costs (in terms of litigation and adverse publicity) of discrimination.


Statistics covering gender and ethnicity proportions in terms of enrolment of students and qualifications gained in colleges are still inconclusive due to lack of data at a national level. However, the FEFC will be publishing ‘very detailed analyses’ of figures from the first Individualised Student Record (ISR) return in spring or early summer, including those for ethnicity and gender. This will be a major benefit in assessing how equal opportunities policies are working in practice.

What Should Students’ Unions Do?

  • The Students’ Union should have representation on the equal opportunities committee.

  • The Students’ Union should get data on the college from the ISR and push for prioritisation of areas which are weak.

  • The Students’ Union should be part of the College wide equal opportunities training.

Franchising

The Committee of Vice Chancellors & Principal’s (CVCP) define a franchised course as:

A whole course, or a stage of a course, designed in one institution [the franchiser e.g. an HEI] and delivered in, and by the staff of, another institution [the franchises e.g. a FE college],' overall responsibility for the quality of the course and the assessment of the students resides with the franchising institution.

 

And the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) defines a franchised student as:

 

One who is taught under a franchising arrangement by one institution whilst being registered at another. In general, a student can only be registered for any individual course at one institution. The institution which receives funding from a funding council and/or receives the tuition fee from the student or from a local authority or other body on behalf of that student is to be regarded as the institution which registers the student.

 

Be warned:

 

  • franchising is just one form of partnership arrangement between Further and Higher Education Institutions;

 

  • franchising is not another name for accreditation, validation, joint or access courses;

 

  • franchising is now perceived as a relatively unsophisticated concept as compared with other partnership arrangements, such as associate colleges where the FEI has an exclusive agreement with just one HEI and the FEI is rewarded with preferential funding and higher levels of strategic planning;

 

  • franchised courses vary in academic level from access courses to postgraduate (full-time or part-time); and finally

 

  • franchising is most popular in the non-charter university sector i.e. new universities

 

Studies which NUS has carried out into students experiences of franchising show that students who have made the choice of wishing to study in an FEI are very satisfied with teaching and beaming support but critical of the recreation and social facilities.

 

 

What Should Students’ Unions Do?

 

  • Get hold of copies of the Memorandum of Agreement with existing franchise arrangements.

 

  • Ensure that there is a student support element which includes funding for the student

 

  • Request to be included in the body which discusses new franchises.

 

  • Ensure a line of contact is set up between the student unions involved in the arrangement

 

  • Ensure there is a contact with a representative of the franchise students with the HE Students’ Union.

 

  • Ensure that you have adopted the franchise protocol for student unions.

 

  • Monitor franchise arrangements Obtain information from franchise students on the reliability of information used in marketing the course, the standard of beaming and support facilities, availability and access to tutors, and other quality assurance areas.

Hidden Course Costs

This is a reference to additional expenditure charged to the student for aspects of their education and training. Although certain courses such as Art and Design and high intensive technical courses have always attracted costs which the student has had t bear, over the last few years general and non-specific costs have increasingly bee

 

In the Further Education sector, the Charter produced by each college should lay down

the total costs a student would be expected to pay for their education and training

Students should know these costs before enrolment. No new costs should be levied

  • Registration Fees

 

Common form of charging additional fees in the FE sector. The level of these vary fro £10 - £60, with concessions for disadvantaged groups. There is rarely a breakdown, only a vague explanation of what this is actually for, i.e. administration. Students who request a breakdown, often find it difficult to get a straight answer.

 

  • Enrolment Fees

 

Another name for the above.

 

  • Examination Fees

For all 16-19 year olds, these should be free. All examination fees and policy for re-sits should be clearly laid down before enrolment.


  • Facilities Fees

Common in agricultural colleges. These can be high, often £100 or above. There is rarely a clear breakdown; or some colleges will declare them as residential management charges but charge them to non-residential students nevertheless.


  • Equipment Fees

Often levied by college departments after the student has been enrolled on the course.Rarely made clear in the literature at the pre-entry stage.


What Should Students’ Unions Do?

  • Assess what the true costs of studying a course at the college are. How much will the student have to pay in extras?

  • Ensure that the marketing of courses is accurate in terms of these costs.

  • Make students aware that they do not have to pay arbitrary costs. Support complaints that students may wish to make about these.

National Training and Education Targets

 

The National Training and Education Targets were introduced by the previous government in 1993 as a means to counter the low levels of post school qualifications in the UK and to increase competition. Colleges in the FE sector now have their fund locked into a series of expansion and completion targets which an element of their funding is dependent upon.

 At 1995 these targets were at the following levels:

 

 

1995 %

Targets for 2000%

Increase needed %

Percentage with 5 GCSE's at Grade C or above, an Intermediate GNVQ or full NVQ level 2 by age 19 

63

85

22

Percentage with 2 A levels, an advanced GNVQ or full NVQ level 3 by age 21 

44

60

16


NATFHE Contracts Dispute

This dispute has been on and off since 1993 following the incorporation of the FE sector, and the creation of the College Employers Forum led by the infamous Roger Ward. The CEF introduced a model contract for local negotiation which reduced holidays and increased contact time. The intention was to replace the Silver Book, the nationally negotiated terms and conditions for college staff. Coupled with this, the government intervened in 1994 and held back a 2.9% pay increase for any lecturer that did not sign the new local contracts, the idea was to place a financial imperative on college managers to take control and settle the dispute.

NATFHE reckons that over 4000 permanent jobs have been lost in the sector. Much of these have been replaced by part time and casual teaching staff.

The emergence of two large supply agencies, ELS at a national level and North Anglia in East Anglia is rapidly casualising the number of teaching staff in FE colleges leaving a small permanent core. A number of colleges have completely replaced all their part-time staff by agency staff, or introduced their own 0 hour contracts, which means they have a supply of staff on their rolls, but do not have to guarantee them any hours work


What Should Students’ Unions do?

  • Monitor the effect casualisation has on teaming support. Can proper relationships be forged if there is a high turnover of teaching staff on a students’ course?

  • Are students getting the guaranteed quality contact time as laid down in learner agreements?

  • Ensure that students know their rights and who to complain to.

  • Support NATFHE but recognise that there may be a conflict on interests. However, it is college management’s responsibility to ensure that students affected by industrial action who need extra learning support get it.

The Nolan Inquiry

The Nolan Committee of Inquiry on Standards in Public Life was set up by John Major in 1994 following a series of scandals in the Commons and the public perception that public office holders were not conducting themselves in a manner conducive to their responsibilities.

Part of his remit was to look at Further and Higher Education as well as Training and Enterprise Councils and Local Enterprise Companies.

The reports’ key recommendations and comments were:

  • The appointment of members to governing bodies should be made on the basis of melt, subject to the need to maintain a balance of relevant skills and backgrounds on the Boards. Automatic places for TEC/LEC nominees should be ended. Restrictions on who can be members should be removed.

  • "Universities and Colleges cannot be treated as businesses pure and simple, and that staff members and students are not merely employees and customers, but participants within a collegiate body with lights as well as duties." Response to statement that staff and student representation on Governing bodies impeded corporate business.

  • Institutions should produce public annual reports setting out key information about the college and how it is governed. Guidance on setting a common standard should be agreed with the funding councils.

Security in Colleges

The focus on the issue of security has become increasingly intense over the last few years. Colleges based in communities have traditionally promoted the ethos of being open. High profile incidents, such as the murder at Newham College in 1995, and raids on colleges for computer chips has led to a radical overhaul security concepts inside colleges.

Colleges have to strike a balance on how they handle these issues. They need to market themselves as being places which are conducive to education, whilst at the same time protecting their property, students and staff. In FE the following systems of security are now common:

  • Cameras - Sometimes hidden. Students’ Unions have complained that hidden cameras have been placed in their common rooms with no consultation.

  • Private security firms - Often employ staff on poor pay. They often have no induction about the environment they work within, which can lead to heavy handedness and conflict.

  • Youth and Security workers - Becoming increasingly common in London and the Home Counties. A subtler form of security than the above combined with youth work element. Mainly involved in checking ID, but also undertake education initiatives particularly around drugs.

  • ID cards - An increasing use is being made of integrated swipe cards, which is used as an ID card but can also be used to track the student. Colleges are moving rapidly to this system for other reasons. The FEFC requires colleges to produce an Individualised Student Record which covers each students entry qualifications, course programme, attendance records, assessment results and qualifications gained. It can also allow management to get information on the levels of demand in each area of the college, so that this can be more effectively managed.

  • Police Checks - Often used by colleges which have a particular overt drug problem. Tends to exacerbate the problem by shifting it elsewhere. Police are reluctant to get involved as they see this as a problem the college should be sorting out. It is also a marketing managers nightmare.


What should Students’ Unions do?

  • Ask the college to set up a joint group with the Students’ Union on security issues. This means you can influence whatever measures are finally implemented.

  • Agree a code of conduct with the college on issues such as drug dealing, use, violence and theft that this will not be tolerated and sanctions that will be taken. Jointly advertise this in key areas.

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