College collaboration fund (CCF)

How to apply for CCF funding, a peer-support programme to help FE colleges share good practice and develop quality improvement priorities.

Changes to application deadline

We will be adjusting the timescales for the governance pilots and the college collaboration fund (CCF) to help colleges focus on their staff and students’ welfare. We are exploring flexibilities within CCF to support colleges in developing good practice on maintaining delivery.

We will update this page with further announcements or you can contact us if your question is urgent.


The college collaboration fund (CCF) is a new 12 month national programme of competitive grant funding for all statutory further education (FE) colleges.

The fund builds on the previous Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF).

CCF enables colleges to collaborate and share good practice and expertise to address common quality improvement priorities.

Aims of the programme

CCF aims to:

  • develop greater collaboration between FE colleges, usually, but not exclusively, in the same geographic place
  • stimulate quality improvement through developing sector-led approaches peer-to-peer support and sharing good practice
  • ensure sustainable FE provision through adopting process which supports high performance
  • produce products and approaches to quality improvement that can be adopted by other FE providers
  • stimulate the market and provider base to support ongoing quality improvement
  • develop a stronger FE offer through improving the quality of FE provision and learner outcomes, including progression to level 3 qualifications
  • better meet local and national skills priorities and improve labour market outcomes for learners


CCF will run for the financial year 2020 to 2021 and there will be 2 application rounds.

All grant funded activities for both rounds must be completed by the 31 March 2021.

This is the first round and successful colleges will receive payment of their grant by the 18 June 2020.

The second round is scheduled to open on 15 June 2020.


Each application will need a lead college and either a minimum of one other college or a maximum of 4 other colleges.

You’ll need to select the colleges you want to work with before you apply.

Institution type

Only statutory FE colleges can apply as defined in section 91 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992.

These are:

  • general FE colleges
  • sixth form colleges (except those in the process of converting to an academy in the 2020 to 2021 financial year)
  • designated institutions

You cannot apply if you’re a school or academy, local authority, independent learning provider, special post-16 institution, non-maintained special school.

Deputies or advisers who works as a contractor for the FE Commissioner are not eligible to receive funds from a CCF grant.

Number of colleges

You cannot:

  • be an applicant college on more than one application (for example, being a lead college on one application and a partner on another)
  • apply as an individual college if you operate as part of college group structure (any application must be in the name of your college group)

Geographical place

You’re expected to apply with colleges within a shared geographic place, for example, the same sub-regional level as you.

If suitable partners are not available due to the aims of your application, you can apply with colleges from a wider area. For example, addressing provision for a vocational specialism, such as land-based or a particular student cohort, such as learners with high needs.

Ofsted grade

To lead a bid, you must have either Ofsted grade 1 (outstanding) or grade 2 (good) for overall effectiveness.

At least one of the colleges in the group must be a statutory FE college with Ofsted grade 3 (requires improvement) or grade 4 (inadequate) for overall effectiveness or other sub-judgement or ESFA inadequate for financial health.

Colleges who’ve recently merged

You can still apply if you do not have an Ofsted rating because you’re a college that’s recently merged. In this case, as long as one of the 2 previous colleges meets the criteria, you can still apply.

Previous SCIF applicants

You can still apply if you’ve previously received SCIF funding.

Quality improvement themes

Your programme of work must address at least one of the fund’s 3 quality improvement themes identified by DfE. These are listed in this section in priority order.

A: Leadership and governance

Programmes of work may focus on, for example:

  • business strategy development
  • use of management information and data
  • mentoring and coaching
  • recruitment, development and retention pathway for potential new leaders
  • understanding and responding to local and national skills priorities

B: Financial and resource management

Programmes of work may focus on, for example:

  • costed curriculum planning
  • financial management controls and processes
  • recruitment and value for money
  • estates optimisation
  • workforce planning
  • efficient curriculum delivery
  • risk management
  • procurement and value for money

C: Quality of education

Programmes of work may focus on, for example:

  • increasing progression to higher level qualifications (level 3 and beyond)
  • student engagement and experience
  • teaching, learning and assessment
  • securing better labour market outcomes for learners
  • apprenticeships
  • maths and English
  • high needs provision
  • safeguarding
  • specific vocational areas


The lead college will be responsible for:

  • submitting the application
  • managing the funding allocated
  • accounting for progress on the programme of work
  • submitting monitoring and self-evaluation reports
  • completing a case study
  • contributing to a DfE webinar to promote learning

The lead college and partner college or colleges must work together to:

  • understand the challenges you face
  • develop a costed programme of work
  • plan how you’ll use your combined experience and knowledge
  • deliver the programme of work
  • produce an end of programme self-evaluation
  • contribute to DfE material to support the promotion of learning

The improvement programme of work must refer to the findings of:

  • Ofsted’s most recent inspection
  • any recent visits or assessment from the FE Commissioner
  • any recent FE Commissioner’s diagnostic assessment (if applicable)
  • other external or internal assessments

Support from third parties

You can commission support from a third party, for example:

  • a college outside your group
  • a school outside your group
  • a not-for-profit or private provider

If you get support, you’ll need to:

  • get agreement from all of the colleges in your group
  • provide the names of any third parties you’ll use on your application
  • provide evidence about the capacity and capability of any third parties you’ll use
  • clearly demonstrate through your application, value for money for any support commissioned from third parties


Applications are invited for grants of a value up to £500,000 with an expected minimum value of £80,000.

CCF is a total fund of £9.075 million. We have allocated funding equally to each of these quality improvement themes:

  • leadership and governance
  • finance and resource
  • quality of education

We may adjust these funding proportions according to specific demand.

A minimum of 30% of the total fund will be reserved to support applications in round 2.

We’ll use the Assessment criteria (PDF, 170KB, 24 pages) to rank all individual applications for each quality improvement theme. The highest scoring applications within each quality improvement theme will be allocated funding up to the proportions stated.

If your application is addressing more than one quality improvement theme, your application will be considered for funding from the quality improvement theme that is CCF’s highest priority.

Example If your application addresses both the leadership and governance and the finance and resource management themes, it would be considered under the leadership and governance theme funding allocation.

College contributions

You are expected to contribute match funding equal to 25% of the total grant you apply for. This 25% contribution must be split equally between all of the colleges in your group.

The total cost of your programme of work must include your match funding.

DfE may waive matched funding contribution where a college’s financial health was assessed as inadequate and:

  • asking for a contribution would undermine a college’s financial viability
  • where value for money can still be obtained

Any other colleges in the group that do not meet these criteria will still need to contribute their proportion of matched funding.


Additional costs

Your matched funding must meet any true additional costs, for example, third party fees or additional time-limited internal staffing.

In-kind costs

In-kind costs are not eligible, for example, salary payments for staff redeployed to the programme of works.

Temporary costs

You can include temporary costs, for example, replacing staff who are working on the programme of works.


Total eligible costs may include irrecoverable VAT but you will not be able to claim for additional funding above the amount you have been awarded to cover any additional VAT liability.

Conditions of funding

Your application must:

  • target your proposed programme of work and activities at addressing specific areas for improvement shared by your group
  • clearly demonstrate how you have used evidence to identify these specific areas for improvement, for example, by using relevant external or internal assessments

You are not restricted to a predetermined list of activities. The programme of work may include a variety of activities such as:

  • coaching managers and other staff to improve performance
  • improving governors understanding of financial management
  • instructional programmes to enhance staff skills to support teaching, learning and assessment
  • better use of data on student performance
  • improved supports to students, including better control over student attendance
  • enhanced design and costing of the curriculum
  • strengthening relationships with employers, for example, through enhanced work-based learning

What’s excluded from CCF funding

You cannot use CCF funding for capital expenditures on assets valued at over £2,500 which are expected to be used for a period of at least 12 months such as:

  • purchasing assets
  • buildings
  • furniture
  • fittings
  • information technology
  • software

Items valued below £2,500 are not counted as capital assets, even where they have a productive life of more than one year.

Also excluded are any:

  • staff restructuring
  • independent business reviews
  • marketing or public relations activities
  • activities that are predominantly focused on a college’s higher education provision
  • activities or services you’d normally get free of charge
  • payments you’ll make for subsidised activities of services at a higher ‘market’ rate

You may use your match funding for capital expenditures and staff restructuring provided your application demonstrates the relevance of this to your programme of work.


During your programme of works, you’ll need to:

  • provide ESFA with a monitoring return on your use of grant funds at the midpoint and the end-point of your programme of work
  • account for progress against the agreed work programme including KPIs and any other challenges
  • identify risks that are having or could have an impact on your programme of work
  • provide a spend profile accounting for the expenditure of both CCF funding and match funding to date
  • provide a forecast spend position for when your programme of works is planned to be completed

When your programme of work is completed, you’ll need to provide:

  • a summary of your programme of works achievements
  • confirmation of your final spending position, including accounting officer sign off

All timescales for submitting completed monitoring returns will be confirmed in your grant award letter.


Your application must include details of how you’ll evaluate and measure your programme of work. DfE may generate data based on this evaluation which may be published in an anonymised way so that individuals and colleges cannot be identified.

For your evaluation, you’ll need to:

  • define and agree KPIs or measures of success
  • develop and deliver a self-evaluation plan

Payment and repayment of funding

The lead college will receive payment from ESFA under a funding schedule.

ESFA will enter into a contract with the lead college. Any arrangements between the college improvement partners involved in your application are to be determined by your group.

CCF funding will become repayable through a future reduction in ESFA funding if:

  • CCF funding is not spent by 31 March 2021
  • CCF funding is not spent on the eligible activities you have detailed in your programme of work (unless any change has been agreed with the ESFA)
  • the total matching funding is not contributed in full
  • reports on expenditures and outcomes are not submitted


Email if you have any questions about the programme or how to apply.

Published 27 February 2020
Last updated 30 March 2020 + show all updates
  1. Added information about the changed application deadline.

  2. Updated application form and criteria.

  3. Added webinar details to 'Support for applicants'.

  4. First published.