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Axe swings at Royal Forest

Job cuts are at an "advanced stage" at a rural college which has had to slash pound;500,000 from its budget.

Representatives of Royal Forest of Dean college have said that the institution will have to cut the full-time equivalent of 25 staff through a mixture of redundancies and reduced hours.

The impending cuts will amount to about 12 per cent of the college's overall workforce - with support staff as well as lecturers facing redundancy.

Mark Walton, the vice-principal, who has been at the college since it opened 18 years ago, said: "We have a recovery plan and we have been working very closely with the Learning and Skills Council.

"No amount of redundancies can be described as 'small', but I'm afraid we are not untypical of a rural college.

"We don't have a Swindon or a Bath on our doorstep. The nearest big town is Gloucester, about 20 miles away, and Hereford, each of which have their own colleges."

He said the cuts will not lead to any course closures and the college will be looking at ways of marketing itself more effectively towards the older generation of potential students.

The age profile of Royal Forest of Dean is currently weighted toward students over 35 and under 15.

The college has nevertheless been able to increase the number of 16 to 19-year-old students in recent years, but Mr Walton says that further growth is necessary.

He said the college, which has a cattle grid at its entrance, falls foul of LSC funding criteria because of its location.

It struggles to keep class sizes large enough to be viable while, at the same time, offering a wide variety of courses in a thinly-populated area.

Mr Walton noted that the local LSC has been "supportive" of the college.

"Standards will be maintained," he said, as a recovery plan is put into action.

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