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Colleges and the Impact of Area Based Reviews

23rd October 2015

Samantha Davis analyses what Area Based Reviews mean for the further education sector...

Further Education (FE) providers are facing unprecedented challenges. Significant cuts in learner funding, changes to access to capital funding and increased nervousness in the banking sector have impacted greatly on the financial position of colleges. The introduction of area reviews will also bring further challenges, with the need for closer cooperation between area based providers and rationalisation of curriculum, provision and estate.

Area based reviews.

Current guidance on area reviews suggests that the FE Commissioner welcomes providers who work together in planning and preparing for area reviews. Understanding the existing provision arrangements and the potential for rationalisation and improved efficiencies is the main objective of the area review approach.

This can be achieved through:

  • Assessment of area curriculum offer;
  • Understanding stakeholder needs and objectives;
  • Developing effective, long-term curriculum strategies;
  • Identifying the need for investment and/or rationalisation of area-wide FE estate.

Curriculum planning

Developing the right curriculum has never been so important. Changes in revenue funding, the increased role of employers, apprenticeships and traineeships, and ensuring that curriculums are aligned to local and national strategies means that many colleges are faced with the challenge of reinventing their offer.

Specialist FE support can assist in all aspects of a curriculum review and strategy activities including:

  • Reviewing financial performance;
  • Testing forward revenue assumptions;
  • Identifying future skills needs;
  • Reviewing curriculum content against skills demand.

Space modelling

Understanding and matching space requirements to curriculum needs is critical to optimising the cost and utilisation of an FE estate. Changes in pedagogy and technology, and increased demand for work-based-learning and vocational training means that providers need to carefully consider what amount, and what kind of, space is needed. Knowledge of space-modelling, timetabling options, building utilisation benchmarking and learning technology application will help get the most from your education space.

Developing an estate strategy

Many providers find themselves with significant estate challenges, whether it is the condition and suitability of learning environments, or the need to invest in new estate provision or the need to rationalise estate in line with revised curriculum strategy. Such strategies are becoming increasingly important in attracting funding. Whether through a LEP or alternative sources, providing a robust rational is central to evidencing the sustainability of any vision to attract funding and support. The development of in-depth, pragmatic and deliverable estate strategies will ensure that the estate can adapt to future needs in the most cost-effective and efficient way.

Accessing funding and finance support

Access to capital funding and investment finance has been significantly reduced in the FE sector. This comes at a time when many providers need to invest in their estate to ensure that it meets current and future need. Exploring forms of funding and financing arrangements, such as grant funding through LEPs optimising land receipts or structuring private sector investment, will help providers make informed decisions about the funding of your estate.

Stakeholder consultation

Increasingly, FE providers are required to demonstrate the alignment of their offer with the needs and objectives of a wide range of stakeholders. From learners to LEPs and national sector skills strategies to local employers, the need to have a formal process for stakeholder engagement has never been greater. It is vital to understand stakeholder needs and objectives, and to map these against existing and planned curriculum to identify opportunities for new curriculum provision or full-cost training.


Capita’s specialist FE team can work with you through each stage to develop and deliver successful education and estate strategies. For more information, contact Samantha Davis -

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