Lecturers' pay-cut lifeline falls short

Lecturers who agreed to a pay cut to bail out their cash-strapped college now fear redundancies as its financial problems continue.

Royal Forest of Dean college says it is struggling to make ends meet as a small institution in a rural location. It owes the Learning and Skills Council more than pound;1m for failing to attract the number of students it expected - particularly on adult courses.

Gill Young, the principal, said: "We have an excellent reputation to maintain and the last thing we want is to reduce our high-quality teaching.

"But, regrettably, we do envisage the loss of some posts across all staff and we will deal with this in line with agreed procedures."

She says the Gloucestershire college has been faced with difficulties such as running courses with small numbers of students and the challenge of providing a wide range of subjects.

Ms Young says that these problems are typical of rural colleges.

Lecturers agreed last year to a pay cut due to be introduced in two years.

Natfhe, the lecturers' union, had hoped its members' sacrifice would mean the crisis was over.

The LSC is working with the college on a recovery plan and Ms Young is in talks with the union about possible job losses.

Alan Williams, chairman of governors, said: "The challenge is to provide the range that our local community wants, yet at the same time to balance the books."

A spokesperson for the college's Natfhe branch said: "I can't disown our pay agreement because it was made in negotiation with the college and we agreed to it. But now we are facing redundancies, which we did not expect."

It is understood a recent Ofsted report on the college praises the quality of teaching but is critical of the standard of management.

It has not yet been published but has been seen by college staff.

Forest of Dean MP Diana Organ said: "The staff have been very supportive.

This is about management and governance and looking at what management strategy and management systems you need to make sure you can have a good and robust budget."

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