Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Urge to Merge

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Urge to Merge

Article excerpt

Assimilate - or exterminate?

Ahead of the impending structural overhaul of the FE sector, most of the attention has been on college area reviews. But as 25 November - the date of the government's spending review - creeps ever closer, staff at the government-funded bodies on the peripheries of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) are getting increasingly twitchy.

While FErret is naturally suspicious of anyone from the wrong side of the Pennines, he can't help but admire Lancastrian-born business secretary Sajid Javid's zeal for saving a bob or two. A document leaked earlier this month suggests he is apparently keen to see the number of Bis partner organisations, which currently stands at 45, slashed by more than half by 2020. As colleges pile in with merger proposals before more outlandish reforms are foisted upon them in the area reviews, FErret wonders whether Bis' perturbed partners are also planning for the worst.

Further, higher, cheaper

Calls to merge the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and Hefce, the higher education funding body, have been getting louder in recent weeks. In September, adult learning body Niace made the proposal in its submission ahead of the spending review. And employers' organisation the CBI has weighed in with the same idea.

Just last week, Policy Exchange - yes, that is the thinktank skills minister Nick Boles helped to establish, before you ask - also suggested it might not be a bad move. Its Higher, Further, Faster, More report (bit.ly/ReportPolicyExchange) argues that combining the agencies would help to "streamline the general regulatory architecture around HE and FE". At the very least, sharing a few back office services would save a few quid.

Sweet FA

There can be few individuals who have paid as high a price for the government's efficiency drive as poor old Peter Lauener. …

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