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    NAA Member News: Blackpool and The Fylde College (B&FC) achieves Gold for Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) a national assessment of higher education (HE)

    Blackpool and The Fylde College (B&FC) has been awarded TEF Gold for the standard of its higher education. The award provides an overall rating made up of two individual assessments relating to student experience and student outcomes.

    Although a number of provider assessments are still pending, B&FC is currently one of only three further education colleges in England to receive Gold for all three elements out of a total of 228 HE providers. Moreover, it is the only institution in Lancashire and one of only two HE providers in the North West to achieve this accolade – a significant feat given the illustrious nature of many of the institutions in the region.

    Based as it is in one of the most deprived local authority areas in England, this achievement is even more remarkable especially given that this is not the first time the College has been awarded TEF Gold. It originally achieved this accolade in 2017 before a new framework was developed on which this latest award is based.

    Separate submissions from both the College and from the student cohort were presented to a panel of sector experts, appointed by the HE regulator, the Office for Students, who considered 13 distinct features deemed critical to the delivery of high quality HE provision. To achieve Gold in both categories and Gold overall, indicates that students at B&FC typically enjoy an outstanding experience and outcomes at the College. One insight that clearly emerged was students’ sense of belonging and how, despite being a multi-site College, students feel ‘part of something’ wherever they might study.

    B&FC, which has indefinite foundation degree and time-limited degree awarding powers, as well as offering degree courses accredited by Lancaster University, was assessed on its provision for both undergraduates and higher and degree apprentices, which currently totals over 2,500.

    Principal Alun Francis OBE said it was an even greater achievement due to the geographical nature of the College and the diverse make-up of its students and apprentices.

    He said: “Unlike more traditional universities, B&FC delivers over 50 diverse professional and technical HE courses, including higher and degree apprenticeships and operates over a broad church, with students coming from a mix of backgrounds – from those coming straight from further education at age 18 to students coming back into education later in life, those studying alongside employment and others who may be the first in their family to go on to higher education.

    “Our student-centred approach and smaller class sizes ensure our learners succeed in their course and progress to highly skilled employment through a bespoke offering that caters for their needs throughout their time with us.

    “This Gold rating is evidence that our extensive efforts for every student and apprentice, and recognition that our personalised approaches with wraparound support, are working. It is particularly rewarding that so many students – from our University Centre close to the centre of Blackpool to Fleetwood Nautical College, where our seafaring students study – got involved in feeding back to the Office for Students about their positive experiences.”

    Staff pride themselves on getting to know every student and apprentices and understanding their learning journey, through regular one-to-one and group progress tutorials, surveys and discussion groups to assess progress and suggest what more can be done to support and challenge.

    The flexible learning approach extends further, allowing students who may not be able to commit to a three-year degree programme from the outset to study a one-year programme such as Higher National Certificate or Certificate of Higher Education before committing to further study at the end of their programme. Should circumstances mean they are not able to continue immediately, they also have the possibility of returning a later date to complete further years of their programme.

    B&FC is also developing a number of Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs), which are designed by businesses and employers, further confirming the emphasis on providing high quality technical professional education.

    Strong links have been maintained with more than 1,800 local, national and international employers, who help to co-create course content and ensure B&FC students and apprentices develop the knowledge, skills and behaviours that meet employer demand and future workforce requirements. This complements delivery by industry-expert teaching staff who regularly update their own skills and knowledge through industry experience days

    Carrie Lee, Students’ Union Sabbatical Officer, led the student submission, creating a survey, holding focus groups and workshops, and collecting insight during a biannual ‘big student meeting’.

    She said: “As a former B&FC student now responsible for leading the Students’ Union, it makes me immensely proud to know that the College has been awarded TEF Gold. This achievement is testament to the continuous and dedicated collective hard work of B&FC staff, students and apprentices. It’s a recognition of the high standards that B&FC set, and are held accountable for, and a celebration of our core values, which sets students and apprentices at the heart of what we do.”

    B&FC, which operates over five campuses and four specialist sites and employs approximately 1000 people, is also the lead college of the new Lancashire and Cumbria Institute of Technology (L&C IoT), designed to deliver a highly skilled workforce. Achieving TEF Gold status means it is now exceptionally well-placed to share best practice with other L & C IoT partners. 

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham