Managers at the Mayday Hospital described the decision to close the access to nursing course at Croydon College as "bizarre". But college managers say cuts imposed by the Further Education Funding Council have left them with no alternative.
The college is to shed 95 jobs - part of an expected 8,000 job cuts nationwide this year - following a new round of "efficiency" measures aimed at reducing spending at high-cost colleges. The course to prepare people for a career in nursing will go despite a shortage of 80 nurses locally.
Abraham Mohamed, Croydon College branch secretary of the lecturers' union NATFHE, described the cut as "incomprehensible". He said: "Staff are absolutely up in arms about these proposed cuts. We are considering industrial action and have been lobbying the Government."
Karen Oliver, the hospital's head of personnel, said: "It seems bizarre that the Government, through the FEFC, is considering cutting funding for courses while another branch desperately needs more trained people."
She said that the hospital was short of nursing staff and had a large number of vacancies. People seemed to be put off nursing because they thought the NHS was in crisis, and this cut would not help, she added.
The NHS tried recruiting abroad but there was a limited supply of nurses in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and Europe who were being chased by a lot of health service hospitals.
A Royal College of Nursing spokeswoman said the NHS was short of 8,000 nurses nationwide.
Vice-principal Tony Holyhead said the college had been put in an impossible situation because of the pressure for financial convergence between colleges. It needed to cut pound;1 million a year for the next three years or its finances would "spiral downwards, probably uncontrollably". It was considering cutting the access courses because it was one of those which brought in the least money for the college.