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Colchester Institute: Keeping track of budgets - it's all in the reports

With an annual turnover exceeding £40 million Colchester Institute is the largest General Further Education provider of its kind serving North Essex and the surrounding areas, delivering a wide range of full- and part-time vocationally orientated programmes, to both Further Education and Higher Education learners.

Colchester Institute receives every year substantial support from Discretionary Learner Support and other funding bodies. The budget of £1m needs to be managed well in order for all students to benefit. Prior to purchasing Intuition, the College used a combination of very basic databases and spreadsheets to keep track of all the money, but this system was hard to manage efficiently. Colchester Institute adopted the Intuition system in 2011.

It’s all in the reports

“When we first saw Intuition, we immediately saw the potential. In particular, we liked the fact we could customise the system to help us manage our budget easily,” Sharon Bull, Student Services Adviser at Colchester Institute, said. “The thing I particularly love is the ease with which you can produce reports to manage our budgets effectively,” she added.

“When we purchased Intuition, we started to record the budgets under the Discretionary funding section* with a split between 16-19 years old and 19+ students.  This helped us a lot with the reporting side of the whole process,” she explained. “When Active developed the Budgeting module, we chose to use it as an alerting tool. We set our budgets at 80% in Intuition, so we are  alerted when we reach the threshold. This allows us to review and prioritise where to allocate funds for the rest of academic year before we spend the budget completely. This is very simple yet efficient way to monitor our total budget allocations.”

Discretionary funding

The College decided to further customise their Discretionary funding section to monitor categories in greater detail, from childcare, to how much money is spent on books or other supplies, including all bursaries that students receive. The detailed categories  enables college staff  to quickly answer questions like “how much have we spent on accounting books this year” and similar. At the end of each academic year, Intuition assists staff in running reports to demonstrate to funding bodies that budgets were spent appropriately.

College tutors can check which students received specific funding for supplies very easily, so it is clear who has received supplies and who hasn’t. There is now no need to manually check order forms and invoices as all information is stored in Intuition. Previously it would also have been a manual process to check each student’s details as there is a variety of different funding sources for the College, each with its own set of funding criteria.

Travel scheme support for the students

After Essex County council changed its post-16 travel scheme, the College began using the Transport section** of Intuition exclusively.  As very few students are now eligible for support through council’s travel scheme the College negotiated better rates with local transport providers. Intuition helps keep track of those who received tickets at a discounted price, and those whose transport was paid via discretionary fund.

Supporting students’ welfare

The College’s finance and welfare teams work very closely together, and Intuition supports in recording any claims made by students, to ensure they receive appropriate support from both teams. All interactions and interventions are recorded so key information about the student is not missed or misinterpreted. The welfare team can check if the student receives any funding,  which allows the finance team  to check that the student is being supported. It is also an easy way to keep records of what  has been agreed.

Colchester Institute provided invaluable feedback to Active Informatics during the development of the Budgeting section of Intuition.

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*Discretionary funding section of Intuition enables users to reconcile awards to learners with internal budgets and inform Finance Departments who has been paid.

**Transport section enables to view all means of financial assistance college offers with travel (e.g. travel passes). Again, this section can be customised to suit the specific needs.

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