Colleges in Northern Ireland hit by £50 million cuts

Colleges in Northern Ireland join those England, Scotland and Wales in their calls for more funding in the face of significantly squeezed budgets

George Ryan

Heads warn pupil referral units could face closure

Colleges in Northern Ireland are facing swingeing cuts to their budgets, amounting to nearly £50 million over five years.

Colleges NI, which represents the six FE colleges in Northern Ireland, has demanded an urgent rethink of the proposals presented in Budgetary Outlook put forward by the devolved administration’s Department of Finance for the next two years.

In the past decade, the number of colleges in Northern Ireland was reduced from 16 to 6 colleges and the sector has faced cuts in excess of £20 million since 2015-16. They now face further cuts of between £14-27 million.

Hitting those in need

The proposals, which Colleges NI say undermine the life chances of the most vulnerable in society and fail to consider longer-term economic and social impacts, include ending Entry Level and Level 1 provision. This would have an impact on 15,000 learners – and ceasing or reducing payments under the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) would affect around 8,000 FE students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

A spokesman for Colleges NI said: “Northern Ireland continues to have the highest proportion of working age population with no formal qualifications.

“These proposals undermine the up-skilling of the most vulnerable in our society and it is misguided to think that alternative existing provision could fill the gaps that some of these proposals will create. The proposals will also impinge on economic growth by reducing access to skills.”

Harming social mobility

The six FE colleges in Northern Ireland, Belfast Metropolitan, Northern Regional, North West Regional, Southern Regional South Eastern Regional and South West, are all facing significant financial pressures.

Colleges in Northern Ireland join those England, Scotland and Wales in their calls for more funding in the face of significantly squeezed budgets.

The chief executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, said last year: “The prime minister has spoken eloquently and convincingly about her commitment to a country that works for everyone. I don’t think she can achieve that without fair funding for colleges because colleges are the engine rooms of social mobility and lifelong learning.”

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow Tes FE News on Twitter, like us on Facebook and follow us on LinkedIn

Register to continue reading for free

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you

George Ryan

George Ryan

George Ryan is a further education reporter for tes

Find me on Twitter @GeorgeMRyan

Latest stories

Teaching remotely

11 annoying moments from remote learning

The move to teaching remotely hasn’t been easy for school staff, but at least it has been memorable. Here are some of your tricky moments from the front line of lockdown learning this week
Joshua Lowe 16 Jan 2021
Covid

Coronavirus and schools: LIVE 15/1

A one-stop shop for teachers who want to know what impact the ongoing pandemic will have on their working lives
Tes Reporter 15 Jan 2021