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further education and skills

The Further Education sector has seen significant change in recent times.  With reducing funding, greater competition from Higher Education providers (who have been expanding their range of services into the FE Sector) and other independent offerings entering the market, the challenges have increased.  The sector has had to respond to the digital age and the increased need for flexibility together with the implementation of Area Reviews and a focus on the creation of larger institutions.  Colleges have had to innovate and adapt quickly to prosper.

We have supported FE providers throughout this period and have not lost sight of the fact that, whilst challenging, changes in the government agenda, the introduction of the apprenticeship levy and the ever increasing commercialisation of the FE sector has also created new and different opportunities. 

At Watson Burton our lawyers have the knowledge and judgement to guide you through the challenges that the FE Sector continues to face providing pragmatic, strategic advice at each stage.

We can provide value by helping you make properly informed decisions.

Case studies

We have worked within the FE sector for many years.  We have a full and proper understanding of the regulatory framework and developments in the sector.  Recent examples of work include:

Change Management Project

  • Advising an institution under pressure to address inefficiencies, through a streamlining process which involved removing and replacing various members of its senior leadership team including the HR Director.  We prepared staff communications and advised the Board on how to conduct both collective and individual consultation meetings.  We also advised on risk cases including where issues of discrimination because of disability and age arose.  This involved preparing a project plan identifying and dealing with resourcing and delivery as well as managing all of the legal risks.  Ultimately we helped to ensure that the process was completed on time, within budget and without any formal grievances or tribunal claims.

Notice Dispute and Surrender of a Lease

  • Assisting a College in relation to the surrender of a lease. The landlord argued that the College had not correctly exercised a break clause and was legally obliged to keep paying rent.  We argued that the College had not only met its obligations but also highlighted various breaches of the lease by the landlord.  This led to a commercially favourable settlement for the College.  The landlord agreed to accept an early surrender of the lease with the College paying rent and service charges for a further 9 months rather than the remaining 5 year term of the lease.

Area Review Programme and Consolidation

  • We advised Governors on the process of merger between two Colleges, including conducting in depth legal due diligence and advising on potential structure and finance issues in the context of a merger.  This included strategic advice as well as risk management.  We also advised a College on the acquisition of a private sector training provider and on the acquisition of a University campus and associated HE provision.  This relied heavily upon our private sector as well as our experience in the Education sector.


Christopher Graham | Partner

0345 901 2033