College collaboration fund (CCF)

A peer-support programme to help FE colleges share good practice and develop quality improvement priorities.

This guidance was withdrawn on

The college collaboration fund (CCF) was a peer-support programme to help FE colleges to collaboratively address shared quality improvement priorities and share good practice.

The CCF ran from 2020 to 2022 and supported a range of projects. FE providers can continue to access and benefit from the CCF legacy of free to use resources and learning generated by these projects.

We are continuing to support FE providers to collaboratively address quality improvement challenges through the Strategic Development Fund (SDF).

The SDF is a national programme that supports a change in facilities and provision to meet skills priorities across a local area and improve the local skills system.

Applies to England

Applications for the second round of the CCF closed on 21 May 2021.

You can view the project summaries and resources developed by successful applicants at College Collaboration Fund (CCF) projects. Insights and learning from the fund are available at College Collaboration Fund insight report.

Round 2 successful applicants

Lead college Partner college or colleges
Activate Learning (Oxford, Berkshire and Surrey) Bournemouth and Poole College, Newbury College
Bridgwater and Taunton College Wiltshire College and University Centre
Cirencester College Strode College, Brockenhurst College, The Henley College, Petroc, St Brendon’s Sixth Form, Shrewsbury Colleges Group
EKC Group MidKent College, Morley College (London ), North Kent College
Harrow College and Uxbridge College Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College West Thames College, Barnet and Southgate College, Stanmore College
Hartlepool College of Further Education East Durham College, Bishop Auckland College, NCG
Heart of Worcestershire College TEC Partnership (Grimsby, Hull and Scarborough)
Lincoln College Chesterfield College
London South East Colleges East Sussex College Group, East Surrey College
LTE Group Bury College, Bolton College, Hopwood Hall College, Oldham College, Tameside College, Trafford College, Wigan and Leigh College, Salford City College
Middlesbrough College Darlington College, Hartlepool College, Education Training Collective, Northern School of Art
New College Durham Gateshead College, Trafford College
Runshaw College Bury College, Tameside College
South and City College Birmingham Solihull College and University Centre, City of Wolverhampton College, Coventry College
South Thames College Group Sparsholt College, Basingstoke College
Tyne Coast College Itchen College, Selby College
Weston College of Further Education City College Plymouth, National College for Advanced Transport and Infrastructure (NCATI)
Wilberforce College Franklin College, John Leggott Sixth Form


The College Collaboration Fund (CCF) is a national programme of competitive grant funding for all statutory further education (FE) providers.

CCF enables colleges to collaborate and share good practice and expertise to address common quality improvement priorities. The fund builds on the previous CCF round in 2020 to 2021 and its predecessor, the Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF).

Aims of the programme

CCF aims to:

  • develop greater collaboration between FE colleges
  • stimulate quality improvement through developing sector-led approaches to peer-to-peer support and sharing good practice
  • ensure sustainability of FE provision through adopting processes that support high performance
  • produce resources and approaches for 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 by improving the quality of FE provision and learner outcomes

  • better meet local and national skills priorities and improve labour market outcomes for learners


CCF will run for the financial year 2021 to 2022 and there is one application round. You must complete all grant-funded activity by 31 March 2022. If you are successful, you will receive your grant on or around 18 August 2021.

You can begin delivery of CCF grant-funded activity from when you are first notified that you have been successful but this will be at your own risk.


Institution type

Only statutory FE providers 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 2021 to 2022 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 work as a contractor for the FE Commissioner are not eligible to receive CCF funds.

Number of colleges

Each application will need a lead applicant college and a minimum of one other improvement partner college.

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

You cannot 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).

Ofsted grade

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

Colleges who have recently merged or are planning conversion

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

Sixth-form colleges that are currently in the process or planning conversion to an academy in the 2021 to 2022 financial year are excluded and are not eligible to apply.

Previous CCF and SCIF applicants

You can still apply if you have previously received CCF or 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 below:

A: Quality of education

Programmes of work may focus on delivering improvements and effectiveness of:

  • increasing progression to level 3 and beyond (including both technical and higher technical)
  • student engagement and experience
  • teaching, learning and assessment
  • workforce development
  • apprenticeships
  • maths and English
  • high needs provision
  • safeguarding
  • specific vocational areas

B: Financial and resource management

Programmes of work may focus on delivering improvements and effectiveness of:

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

C: Leadership and governance

Programmes of work may focus on delivering improvements and effectiveness of:

  • 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

In your application you are not restricted to a predetermined list of activities.

We are particularly interested in receiving applications that address the following specific quality improvement needs:

  • development of digital content and resources to support remote and blended delivery
  • supporting learner resilience, wellbeing and mental health to enable learners to stay engaged in their education
  • developing support for learners to address lost learning and enable catch up

Further information on these specific quality improvement needs can be found in annex A.


The lead applicant 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 DfE dissemination activity to promote learning

The lead applicant college and improvement 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
  • complete an end of programme evaluation
  • contribute to DfE material to support the promotion of learning

Support from third parties

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

  • college outside your group submitting the application
  • school outside your group submitting the application
  • not-for-profit or private provider

If you get support, you will need to:

  • get agreement from all the improvement partner colleges in your group
  • provide the names of any third parties you will use on your application
  • provide evidence about the capacity and capability of any third parties you will use
  • complete any due diligence processes that you feel is relevant or proportionate for subcontracting


You can apply for up to £500,000. The expected minimum application is for £100,000. The total fund is £5.4 million.

College match funding contribution

Your group is expected to contribute total match funding equal to a minimum of 25% of the total cost of your programme of work. For example, if the total cost of your programme of work is £400,000, we would expect to see a matched funding contribution of £100,000. The proportion of match funding contribution made by each individual college improvement partner involved in your application is to be determined by your group.

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

DfE may waive a proportionate amount of match funding contribution where a college is in formal intervention with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and:

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

Any other college in the group that does not meet these criteria will still need to contribute their proportion of match funding.


  • will be based on ESFA’s most recent assessment of a college’s financial health
  • are at DfE’s sole discretion

Match funding eligibility

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

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

Your matched funding can include temporary costs, for example, replacing staff who are working on the program of works.


Total eligible programme 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 quality improvement needs shared by your group
  • demonstrate how you have used evidence to identify the specific quality improvement needs
  • identify the products, learning and good practice that will be derived from your programme of work and how this will be shared with the wider FE sector

What’s excluded from CCF funding

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

  • buildings
  • furniture
  • fittings
  • information technology
  • software

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 would normally get free of charge
  • payments you will make for subsidised activities or services at a higher ‘market’ rate

There is no limit on the amount of spend on capital items using partner college match funding contributions.


During your programme of work, you will need to:

  • provide ESFA with a monitoring return on your use of grant funds at each quarter and the endpoint of your programme of work
  • identify risks and issues that are or could have an impact on your programme of work
  • account for progress against the agreed work programme by identifying key performance indicators, milestones and measures of success at the beginning of the programme
  • produce and keep a spending profile - there needs to be clarity within your internal accounting systems to provide assurance on the use of funds

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

  • ESFA with an end of project monitoring return on your use of grant funds
  • a summary of your programme of work’s achievements

  • confirmation of your final spending position, including accounting officer sign off

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


You will be required to complete a DfE evaluation form to 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 further guidance on approach to CCF project evaluation, see Self-evaluation plan guidance (PDF, 266 KB, 20 pages)

Payment and repayment of funding

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

ESFA will enter into a contract with the lead applicant 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 2022
  • 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)
  • reports on expenditures and outcomes are not submitted


If you have any questions about the programme or developing an application, email

Annex A: specific quality improvement needs

Development of digital content and resources to support remote and blended delivery


To develop high-quality digital content and resources to support the delivery of the FE curriculum.


The FE sector has made strides in remote and blended delivery in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. However, the Colleges and COVID-19 - summer survey 2020 conducted by the Association of Colleges found many colleges reported challenges in accessing high-quality engaging digital content and resources for some areas of the FE curriculum.

The project will bring together a group of FE colleges with proven subject and remote and blended learning expertise to develop high-quality digital content and resources for use across the FE sector.

Proposals should take account of areas of the FE curriculum where there are insufficient digital content and resources, and should not duplicate digital content and resources recently funded by DfE including:

  • digital curriculum content produced through the first round of CCF set out in Digital resources mapping (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 20.1 KB) and accessible on the Remote Education Service
  • digital resources for 5 FE subject areas available through Jisc
  • specialist and English and maths resources provided by the digital lessons and resources relating to Oak National Academy


Outputs would cover quality digital content and resources for a subject area or areas for national publication and use by all FE teaching staff.

Supporting learner resilience, wellbeing and mental health to enable learners to stay engaged in their education


To develop initiatives that will ensure learners stay engaged in their learning and are supported to maintain good wellbeing and mental health.


The project will bring together a group of colleges with proven expertise in providing support to learners, including around wellbeing and mental health, to maintain engagement in learning. This could include developing:

  • innovative approaches to supporting learner mental health or engaging with external providers
  • producing good practice guides or new content for colleges in supporting learner wellbeing and mental health
  • initiatives to develop learner confidence and resilience or provide preventative support
  • anti-bullying interventions for learners who have been the victim of bullying, especially for high-risk groups such as LGBT+ and SEND

Learner focused proposals would be encouraged, with colleges developing projects that empower learners to take responsibility for their own mental health and wellbeing.


Outputs might cover:

  • reduction in drop out and young people becoming NEET
  • increase in learners reporting improved mental health and wellbeing
  • production of resources to support learner mental health and wellbeing
  • improved workforce training in learner mental health, wellbeing and responding to bullying

Developing support for learners to address lost learning and enable catch up


To develop practical solutions that can support 16 to 19 year old learners to address catch up where necessary, build learner resilience and mitigate against further learning loss.


The project will bring together a group of colleges and other relevant partners with the aim of developing approaches for catch up support and mitigation against further learning loss.

The project will focus on:

  • identifying and drawing on best practice activity to help keep learners engaged in their learning
  • develop new support and build on existing practice that will help a learner minimise the impact of further learning loss
  • develop solutions that can support learners to catch up on any time which has been lost from their learning

Proposals should:

  • be learner focused, practical to the learner and provide a tangible and measurable benefit
  • strengthen learner awareness of the personal impact of lost learning and promote a recognition of the need for and the benefits of catch up activity
  • encourage learners to take ownership of their learning, develop individual ambition to remain engaged and promote a renewed personal focus on their learning


Outputs might cover:

  • reduction in learner drop out
  • evidence that catch up is over and above the planned curriculum and provider driven modes of learning during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and beyond
  • production of an online toolkit of successful catch up methods and strategies that can be shared across the sector
Published 27 February 2020
Last updated 12 January 2022 + show all updates
  1. Added North Kent College as a partner to East Kent College (EKC) Group.

  2. Removed North Kent College from the 'Round 2 successful applicants' list and added MidKent College.

  3. Added link to College Collaboration Fund (CCF) insight report.

  4. Removed Haringey Sixth Form as a partner college for South Thames College Group.

  5. Page lists successful applicants in round 2 of the College Collaboration Fund (CCF).

  6. Added list of successful applicants.

  7. Removed application information.

  8. Added information and documents for the 2021 to 2022 application round.

  9. Added information about the 2020 to 2021 application round. Removed previous information about the 2019 to 2020 programme round.

  10. Added a list of colleges who will receive grant funding.

  11. Removed details on how to apply - the application period has now closed.

  12. Reopened the application round and updated the application form and guidance.

  13. Added information about the changed application deadline.

  14. Updated application form and criteria.

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

  16. First published.