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Heady days in Wales as squeeze is relaxed

Shock and disorientation are likely to be widespread among Welsh college principals over Christmas and the New Year, - but not for the reasons normally associated with the season.

For the first time in four years principals will have the chance to allocate a real- terms increase in funding rather than the rather more familiar operation of looking for cuts.

The squeeze has been so severe that it was condemned by the Conservative-dominated House of Commons Welsh Affairs select committee in a report issued just before last year's general election.

Colleges can look forward to an extra Pounds 106 million over the next three years, an average annual increase of 8.6 per cent in the Welsh Office core allocation to the Further Education Funding Council for Wales.

Annual spending will rise from Pounds 178.6m in the present academic year to Pounds 228.6m in 20012. The extra cash, which will fund an extra 28,000 students, was announced by Alun Michael, Secretary of State for Wales, as part of an overall Pounds 844m or 7 per cent increase in education spending over the next three years.

Mr Michael said this was equivalent to an extra Pounds 1,000 for every pupil or student. Higher education receives Pounds 182.8m- an annual average increase of 10.7 per cent.

Mike Jones, chief executive of the Welsh Colleges group, Fforwm, said :"The extra money will restore confidence in the sector and vindicates FE's position as a major player in the economic rejuvenation of Wales. The extra money will be used to deliver high-quality training, as well as to recruit more students, and widen participation to encompass those who are currently excluded from the system."

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