New system of college funding proposed

 

A WORKING group has proposed a radical new funding system for the North's 17 further education colleges. It would involve financial penalties if students dropped out of courses or failed examinations.

The Northern Ireland Colleges' Consultative Forum, representing heads and governors, said the new system had many positive features but could divert £1 million per year from the lecture room to administration.

It could cost £816,000 for extra staff just to maintain the data on the computer system; software maintenance and auditing costs could bring the total to over £1 million.

In a tough budget statement earlier this month, the Secretary of State, Sir Patrick Mayhew, said he wanted to put more cash into teaching; he opted to make sharp cuts instead in adult training, university research, new school buildings, libraries, student awards, the youth service and ancillary education services.

Under the new funding arrangements, colleges would be paid according to a formula based on Student Powered Units of Resource, or SPURs, rather than on equivalent full time student numbers. Apart from £250,000 per college to reflect core costs, budgets would have to be earned from three phases.

Around to 10 per cent would be given for the recruitment phase, reflecting the cost of marketing courses, counselling students and registration; extra SPURs would be paid for recruiting adults and students from deprived backgrounds or with special needs.

Four fifths of funding would be earned from the learning phase, weighted to reflect differing lengths and costs of courses; e.g. engineering attracts more SPURs than business administration courses; payment of this money would require students to attend at least two thirds of the course.

Another 5 to 10 per cent is proposed for the outcome phase, the amount earned being based on final accreditation; maximum SPURs would go to success in courses accredited for the National Targets for Education Training being promoted by the government.