Students 'using window sills as desks' in large classes

University and College Union members vote to oppose increases in class size for 'purely economic reasons'

Julia Belgutay

Class sizes in FE are rising as a consequence of funding cuts, according to the UCU

Funding cuts to FE have led to an increase in class sizes, with groups in some cases too large to fit in their classrooms, a union conference has heard.

At the University and College Union annual congress in Harrogate, further education members passed a motion, tabled by delegates from Kirklees College, calling for the union to oppose increases in class size for “purely economic reasons”. The union should also campaign to ensure that class size increases do not disadvantage disabled staff or students.


More on this: EPI: Colleges stung by 'sharp, real-terms decline in funding'

Background: Meet UCU's new general secretary, Jo Grady

Other news: Lecturers urge colleges not to hide behind government on pay


'Stack them high'

Speaking on the motion, one delegate told the audience that management at her college “don't care about the quality, they just want to stack them high”.

“I have seen students standing around the room, using windowsills as desks, because they physically cannot fit them in," she added.

The motion, passed unanimously by FE delegates, said: “Due to the funding situation in FE, management and other bodies such as the FE commissioners are constantly looking for efficiency savings. One method is to increase class sizes without increasing the resources available. Many departments are given targets in this area. This results in the cancelling of courses and groups, potential job losses, an increase in workload and a reduction in the quality of teaching and learning.”

'More with less' 

It concluded this was “another example of FE professionals being asked to do more with less”.

The motion recognised that smaller class sizes were part of the unique nature of FE that allowed students to thrive who had not done so in school” – among them learners with disabilities – and said that “larger classes with fewer resources were yet another example of lecturers facing increased workload for no more reward”. An amendment to the motion also called for an acknowledgement of the fact that “larger class sizes are being used as a mechanism to make staff redundant”.

However, responding on Twitter, Bedford College principal Ian Pryce said large class sizes like the ones mentioned by delegates were an exception, and the average much lower.  

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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