Principals bid for a 65% rise in spending

COLLEGE principals are demanding an extra pound;2.5 billion from Government to increase student recruiment, modernise the pay structure and boost spending which has remained stagnant since 1996.

The Association of Colleges this week outlined a five-year plan to increase the total college budget by pound;2.5 billion - 65 per cent higher than the current pound;3.8 billion.

The association says workload is increased by expansion of post-16 learning, more higher education expansion and new responsibilities under the 14 to 19 agenda.

The increase would bring the total budget of the Learning and Skills Council - already the country's biggest-spending quango - to around pound;10 billion.

Extra money is also needed, says the AOC, to help colleges bridge the skills gap at levels 2 and 3 and to meet the target for increasing access to higher education, including the introduction of foundation degrees.

The case is put forward in the AOC's submission to the Department for Education and Skills as part of the comprehensive spending review. It says Government needs to reverse the spending squeeze suffered by the sector since the mid-1990s if these goals are to be achieved.

"The much tighter controls which have been exercised over colleges over the last few years, and the complicated funding regime which has been operated, has inhibited rather than encouraged the expansion of the sector," says the submission.

Meanwhile, the pressure on college budgets is increasing as those which have failed to meet the 3.7 per cent lecturers' pay rise come under renewed pressure from the unions.

Sixty-four further education sector colleges in England and Wales have not met the January 2002 increase, according to the lecturers' union NATFHE.

The union has written directly to principals and is working with local branches to consider what action should be taken, but it stresses it is willing to join individual colleges in lobbying government for extra cash if this is needed.

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