As a new dawn rises following the area reviews, opportunities exist for colleges to take a fresh look at shaping their future. Now is the time for further education institutions to define their vision for success in preparing young people to enter an evolving workplace.
So, how can colleges guarantee their success after the area reviews?
Embrace new ways of working
For some colleges, the area reviews have presented new challenges. Whether these take the form of a merger between institutions, rationalisation of resources or a change in direction, ambitious colleges stand to benefit from this period of transition.
Where separate institutions have come together, cutting down on the duplication of effort may be a priority. For instance, a new partnership of colleges may start to enrol all their students on the same system and hold student details on a single database or via a central telephone number, while retaining their own college’s identity.
Other newly merged colleges are adapting to a change in name, location or brand. A college in this position could look at different ways to market to prospective students, or consider building on its relationship with local employers.
Ease the assimilation path
To manage change effectively, institutions need to support their staff, as these are the people who will ensure your future success. The key is to keep all communications as regular and open as possible.
However, no two colleges are the same, and what works in one college may not work so well in another. One college principal I know has weekly meetings with staff where people are encouraged to map out a future together and the importance of creative thinking is encouraged. Another prioritises training sessions to develop the skills and knowledge of the team to better meet the college’s needs moving forward.
Technology clearly has a role to play in bringing teams together. All software should be about reducing time and effort spent on routine tasks. It should also assist by creating the space colleagues need to share ideas and focus on the big picture for the organisation.
Whether this is achieved by moving to the cloud so data can more easily be shared across sites or considering handing over the task of maintaining IT equipment to one campus or a third party, skilled staff are freed up to explore the college’s strategic vision.
Decide what success looks like
To recognise success, colleges need to agree what that looks like. Your objectives may be to increase enrolment numbers, maximise student retention and meet the needs of local employers. But how do you know you’re achieving what you set out to?
As the dust settles on the area reviews, it should be time to review KPIs to ensure they reflect the new objectives for your college. Recent changes could also prompt institutions to re-evaluate some of their ‘softer’ goals too such as the impact of the college’s social media presence.
Establishing key metrics can unite new colleagues and encourage them to work together to achieve common goals.
Communicate across the sector
Each college needs to manage change as an individual institution, but we shouldn’t lose sight of the opportunities for the entire further education sector to succeed in a post area review world.
By taking advantage of opportunities to network with colleagues provided by organisations such as Collab Group, and talking to colleges at different stages of the process, an institution can gain valuable insight into how best to draw up a roadmap for its own future. And when colleges share best practice, there is a positive impact for the whole sector, as standards are raised, and the profile of further education gains greater recognition.
By working together, colleges will thrive in the new education landscape and be better placed to equip young people with the skills and qualifications they need for a successful future.
Karen Reece is head of Capita’s further and higher education business