Further education colleges are not-for-profit institutions that serve their local communities. They are incorporated bodies, not owned by Government, although they receive more than half of their funding from Government. As such, they form part of the public service in Wales.
Most of Wales' further education colleges may be described as part-tertiary: that is, where one or more campuses deliver vocational education and training in addition to delivering general education for the local area's 6th form cohort. One is a Catholic sixth form college; one is a community-based FE institution that delivers learning programmes in community venues rather than in college campuses. In addition, three are merged with universities: one with the University of South Wales (USW) and two with University of Wales Trinity St David's (UWTSD).
Following a number of years of consolidation of the post-16 education and training landscape, the number of colleges has reduced significantly whilst growing in size and strength.
Whilst every college has undergone some structural change, some have seen much more change than others.
But the period of change has not resulted in uniformity. Their diversity very much remains.
No two colleges are alike, and not one college is "average" in terms of turnover or core funding.
The next academic year, 2016/17, will see funding stabilise.
However, further education colleges have faced challenging budgets for a number of years which have led to significant reductions in learner numbers.
The funding for 16-19 year olds has always been largely protected.
Nonetheless, in 2015/16, there was an overall cut of 6% to college funding. The order of the cut meant that no single age cohort was completely immune. Funding for over 19s, however, was the most affected, with a 50% cut applied to that cohort of learners. Coming on top of cuts made in the previous two years, it has led to a significant reduction in the number of part time learners and adult learners.
Around 150,000 learners study at an FE college in Wales each year.
About two-thirds of 16-18 year olds in Wales choose to study at a college.
More than 50% of the student population in colleges across Wales study on a part time basis, many of whom are in employment.
Most are adults (aged 19+).
Colleges deliver the majority of post-16 further education qualifications. They include academic qualifications such as A levels, and technical, vocational and professional courses for individuals and businesses at all levels from Entry/Level 1 to Level 6.
A great many learners at FE colleges across Wales achieve notable success on national and international stages in both vocational and academic disciplines.
Most further education colleges offer A levels, and meet or exceed the UK attainment rates each year with strong university provision. A number of colleges have a strong track record of helping learners progress to Oxbridge, Russell Group universities and more professionally oriented universities such as respected business schools. Indeed, one college has been named an Oxbridge Hub.
Wales' colleges are proving to be strong performers in developing vocational learners and apprentices to world class standards. Colleges are keen participants in Skills Competitions Wales, WorldSkills UK, and a range of trade-specific UK-level competitions.
In addition, colleges work very closely with businesses, developing tailored courses to upskill the workforce. All bar one deliver apprenticeships and work-based learning more generally, working closely with employers both large and small. The majority also deliver courses at higher education levels (Level 4+, e.g. HNDs, Foundation Degrees), and a few offer full Bachelor Degrees.