The inaugural Colleges Week is taking place this week, with the aim of getting the government to boost FE funding.
Here is everything you need to know about the week of action.
What is Colleges Week?
Colleges Week will see colleges across the country, along with education unions and students, hosting events to showcase all they do and raise awareness of the funding challenges that colleges face.
It is part of the Love Our Colleges campaign, a link-up between college staff, students and supporters and the education unions to promote colleges on the national stage.
When does it take place?
Colleges Week runs from Monday 15 October to Friday 19 October 2018.
The week is focused around a national lobby of Parliament on Wednesday 17 October, which will involve principals lobbying MPs and education trade unionists marching and then rallying in Parliament Square.
What is happening?
Events are taking place at colleges up and down the country. The Love Our Colleges website has some ideas of activities you can plan.
As of October 15, more than 19,000 people have signed an online petition calling for college funding to be increased to “sustainable” levels.
Chesterfield College staff and students sang a cover of Stephanie Mills’ Never Knew Love Like This Before, in which they replace the word “love” with “cuts” so that the lyrics become: “We never knew cuts like this before - further education’s on the floor.”
Why is it happening?
Alongside the Love Our Colleges campaign, Colleges Week aims to raise the profile of the FE sector and the 2.2 million people it trains each year.
Ultimately, the organisers say they hope to get better funding for the FE sector. Campaign material points to successes elsewhere in the public sector of raising awareness of budgetary pressures, including schools, the NHS and police.
It has been instigated due to widespread concern over funding levels in the FE sector. A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighted the scale of the issue: per-student spending in FE and sixth-form colleges is around 8 per cent lower than in secondary schools.
Spending per student in FE has also fallen by around 12 per cent in real terms since 2010. In 2019-20, funding levels will be at about the same level as in 2006-07 – and only 10 per cent higher than back in 1989-90.
FE has not only been "the sector most squeezed since 2010, but this also follows a long-run pattern of being treated less generously than other parts of the education system", writes the IFS' Luke Sibieta.
There are also concerns over the growing gap between pay in schools and colleges, which currently stands at £7,000 on average. In July, the Department for Education announced that school teachers would be receiving a pay rise of between 1.5 per cent and 3.5 per cent, part-funded by the DfE.
However, last month it emerged that the government would not be funding a similar rise for the FE sector.
In response, Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes said: “Colleges have had to deal with severe funding cuts over the last decade and have become really lean and efficient, but the impact on students is just unfair and has reached the point where colleges feel they are not able to do enough for students.
"The staff pay gap is also clearly unfair. We have made the case politely. We now need to shout about it. We need to make more noise."
Who is taking part?
The Love Our Colleges campaign is a partnership between the Association of Colleges, NUS students’ union, Association of College and School Leaders, University and College Union (UCU), GMB, TUC, National Education Union and Unison.
How can I get involved?
More information about activities for the week and ideas of what to do can be found at the dedicated Colleges Week website.
Supporters are encouraged to use the #LoveOurColleges hashtag on social media.