The Conservative Party plans to invest £1.8 billion in a further education college rebuilding programme.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said the money would, over a five-year period, be used make sure the entire FE college estate was in “good” – or category B – condition by refurbishing and redeveloping existing facilities and purchasing industry-standard equipment.
This would be matched with “21 per cent more from providers themselves”. A Conservative statement said: “FE colleges will have to work up robust plans to make sure the money is spent wisely.”
Mr Johnson also said all government contracts for major new infrastructure projects would specify that UK apprentices must be used in the delivery of those projects, and a UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to replace the European Social Fund, would be introduced from April 2021.
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“We will introduce the UK Shared Prosperity Fund when EU Structural Funds start to taper off from 2020-21,” the statement added. “This will be our replacement for the bureaucratic EU system – it will ensure this funding continues to be spent on skills, but will be simpler to access and targeted at those who need it most to ensure that it works for this country.”
The announcement by the prime minister has been welcomed by the Association of Colleges. Chief executive David Hughes said: "I am very pleased to see that Boris Johnson has retained his commitment to colleges and to post-16 education in today’s announcement. He was clear on his first day in office as prime minister that colleges are vital to our nation, and today he has backed that with a pledge to offer long-overdue investment in their buildings and facilities. That will be great news for the 2.2 million people who study and train in colleges every year and who deserve the best facilities.
“Capital investment was one of our five proposals for the next government in our manifesto for this election because funding cuts have made it tough to find the budget to invest in their buildings, and too much of the college estate is not good enough. This funding would help colleges have buildings and facilities which provide the best environment for students to work in and give colleges greater ability to plan and invest over the long term.”
Mr Hughes added he was pleased to see a pledge to ensure that the new Shared Prosperity Fund would start in time to replace EU funding, and he hoped that this was “just the first announcement by the prime minister, because as well as capital, colleges need more funding to support young people and adults to get the education and training they deserve and will need in a rapidly changing world.”