Shock funding cut to Welsh FE sector revealed

Darren Evans

The further education sector in Wales is set to lose almost £8 million in funding after a bigger than expected budget cut from the Welsh government, TES can reveal, prompting warnings from colleges that they may have to scrap courses.

As the FE Focus blog revealed last month, colleges were bracing themselves for a “significant” cut at the start of the 2013/14 academic year in September.

In January Welsh government ministers agreed a 1 per cent funding increase for post-16 education for the 2013/14 academic year, raising the total allocation to colleges to £317.8 million.

But that rise has now been cancelled and a further 1.5 per cent cut has been applied, bringing the total amount of funding to £310 million, £7.8 million less than expected and £2.5 million less than 2012/13.

The details were confirmed to TES in an interview with Wales’ new deputy minister for skills Ken Skates earlier today.

Mr Skates said the cut was as a direct result of the UK government budget in March, which left the Welsh government having to find £32 million in revenue savings in 2013/14.

The deputy minister said the impact on the FE sector would have been worse if not for the large number of college mergers in recent years. “I expect FE institutions to fight their corner, of course, but we are all having to make very difficult decisions,” he said. “I hope leaders in the FE sector can acknowledge that.

“Our officials are working very closely with them to identify where savings can be made. The primary focus is on ensuring quality of learning remains as high as it can be.”

John Graystone, chief executive of ColegauCymru, the body that represents all of Wales’ 18 FE institutions, said the sector was “disappointed”, but understood the reasons for the cut.

“We had been given some warning but we weren’t aware of the figures until quite late in the day,” he said. “This is going to be quite tough for colleges. They had already set their budgets and they are now reviewing them as a matter of urgency.

“I suspect there will be some rationalisation of courses and other efficiency measures put into place.”

ColegauCymru will survey its members when the new term starts in September to find out how the cut has affected them.

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Darren Evans

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