Funding for tutorials and enrichment activities is to be cut by nearly three-quarters in colleges and sixth forms as the Government seeks to fund 100 per cent participation.
The Young People's Learning Agency (YPLA) revealed in its 16-19 funding statement that "entitlement funding", which covers tutorials and extra- curricular activities, would be reduced from 114 hours a year per student to just 30.
While transitional arrangements will mean that no college faces more than a 3 per cent cut next year, ultimately the changes will see 16-18 funding reduced by more than 10 per cent before the end of the spending review period in 2015.
Nick Linford, consultant and author of the Hands-on Guide to Post-16 Funding, estimated that the cut could add up to pound;643 million, although the YPLA said pound;150 million would be reinvested in targeted funding for institutions with larger numbers of disadvantaged students. The reduction means that most colleges with 36 weeks of teaching a year will not be funded for even an hour a week.
Colleges are worried about the possible effects on students aiming for places at top universities, where a premium is placed on having a well- rounded personal statement on the Ucas form. It is feared that removing opportunities for extra-curricular activities could harm their chances.
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "The YPLA statement has some alarming implications for colleges, but we can't be certain of the impact in 2011 until we have seen their allocations. We have contacted the YPLA to suggest they need to fast track their budget process.
"Colleges tell us they make good use of the entitlement funds to broaden the curriculum. When we met (education secretary) Michael Gove, we alerted him to the fact that students will only get to the most competitive universities in future from colleges if there is funding for a broad range of courses."
Many lecturers have contracts that specify part of their time for tutorials, which raises fears that their roles may be at risk if colleges have to make job cuts in line with the changes in funding.
Mr Linford said: "It's the equivalent of the Government saying they won't fund a particular qualification. A lot of lecturers will have a proportion in their contract, say 0.5 teaching, 0.5 tutorials. If colleges look for savings in the areas that are being cut, one assumes those people delivering tutorials won't be asked to do as many."
He said urban colleges in poor areas are likely to suffer less from the cuts, since they are expected to get a greater share of the pound;150 million for deprivation.
Unlike the entitlement funding, the cash for colleges and sixth forms in deprived areas is not ring-fenced, by design. The YPLA said: "Schools and colleges will have the freedom to employ the strategies that they know will support their students to increase their attainment."