05 Dec Missing the commercial opportunity in FE

So, times are tough in the public sector with further spending cuts being tabled in the Autumn Statement this week.  The ‘must do more for less’ mantra has been consistently used across further education; a mantra which has some rub with increasing learner numbers and striving for excellence.

Colleges can do 2 things at times like these, they can either rethink their plans and their offer in order to grow – or they can cut costs to live within their (budgeted) means.  Most I expect with do the latter but wish they could do the former.  Reliance on grant or contract funding is not a sure fire strategy to achieve growth; funding rates, priorities and the demand from ‘the market’ has changed and will continue to do so.  Those in senior roles often talk about ‘increasing commercial provision’ which is obviously a good thing to do, but how many actually make a step change to delivering learning that individuals and businesses want, and will see them part with cash to participate – on scale!

This brings me to a different evolution in the sector, the evolution of learning through technology – where delivery costs are low, learning times meet the needs of the learners, and where there is tangible evidence of significant growth.  Having recently participated in a Udemy course myself, I have been really interested to see how this rapidly growing platform is addressing the challenges that institutions face in FE – and on the face of it quite well.

Did you know that you can currently take a course titled ‘The Complete Web Development Course” for $19.  That’s about £12.50.  Over 47,000 people have PAID and enrolled to do this course, and nearly 3,000 of them have provided feedback and a rating with an average of 5/5.

Imagine a College really reviewing its offer to be ‘demand led’ and creating cutting edge content to be delivered this way – £500,000+ commercial income for one course without a significant chunk of a college overhead – and customers rate and promote it for you!