South Essex College Principal: Challenges and opportunities ahead

COLLEGES must now work much harder at realising the growth opportunities still available to them, improve their business processes to become more efficient, maximise their spending power to get best value and raise more income through fees and full cost provision in order to manage the outcomes of the spending review, says Jan Hodges, Principal & Chief Executive of South Essex College of Further & Higher Education.

Jan Hodges said: “Obviously, colleges will need some time to understand the full implications of this Review but so far it is largely in line with what we were anticipating. Still, the emphasis on making even better use of the resources we have, whilst maintaining high standards and while still growing student numbers, is now even greater. With funding being greatly reduced in some areas, Colleges will have to work much smarter to generate the income they need to sustain themselves, which may be more difficult for some, and easier for others.”

Like all Colleges, South Essex College has already been anticipating cuts for the public sector. But having recently been through a merger admits it is better placed to weather the comprehensive spending review storm.

“South Essex College is in a unique position, having merged earlier this year we have developed our three-year plan just recently with an awareness of funding cuts to come. We have been able to make efficiencies and cost savings. In a short time, we have already increased our young learners by over 200 with a record enrolment this September. We have real opportunities to further grow our young learner numbers, particularly at our Basildon and Thurrock campuses through funded vocational courses including apprenticeships and by achieving these targets we will remain in a strong position.

“Being a larger organisation has also given us increased buying power but we are also looking at more radical arrangements such as partnering with other similar organisations in some bulk buying or processes to keep costs down further.”

Adults

There has always been an expectation that Train to Gain would be scrapped and the adult budget reduced, but it comes as welcome news that apprenticeship funding for 750,000 adults is set to increase.

Jan explained: “With adult funding being greatly affected, there will be a cultural change needed in adult education. As with degree courses, if adults better understand the benefits of up skilling then they or their employers are more likely to agree to making a financial investment, which is what is being asked by government.”

Owing to its continued success, South Essex College continues to push ahead on viable new, privately funded capital projects in Southend, Thurrock and Basildon and to invest in our buildings, facilities and equipment as essential to our ability to attract learners for our long-term growth and success.

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