Cash cuts will rip hole in FE's recession recovery formula

5th March 2010 at 00:00
Comment: Nadine Cartner

Recent figures from the Association of Colleges suggest that in the coming year the FE sector faces a pound;200 million cut across the board. Colleges in England face an average budget cut of 16 per cent for adult learning, and in many cases the cut is greater than 20 per cent. Provision for young people has also been adversely affected by the reduction in the funding rate.

Self evidently we are operating in a very tough environment with regard to public finance, and we accept that government policies will bring challenges and responsibilities for college managers. However, as leading economists have pointed out, we will not find our way out of the nation's economic difficulties through the kind and degree of swingeing cuts that we are witnessing in the college sector.

The cuts in funding indicated by the recent allocations to colleges will lead to: higher unemployment (of college staff and also of students who would have found employment had they had the opportunity to follow college courses); a less skilled workforce in the future (again as a result of a reduction in training opportunities); a weakened post-16 education and training infrastructure (since significant numbers of colleges are likely to go to the wall, and in others vocational training infrastructure and resources will be lost); a higher benefits bill (claimed by the individuals who would have found work had they had training opportunities); a negative impact on social integration (through losses to the provision of English for those who speak another language); and the knock-on effects of a general reduction in consumption (a consequence of higher unemployment).

These are not the conditions that will help Britain beat the recession. Quite the contrary: the provision of high-quality education and training by our colleges is essential to economic recovery.

ACM-AMiE calls on the Government to review the present allocations, reflecting on the marked discrepancy between its pledges of late 2009 and actual funding levels, and to accord colleges greater flexibility to move funding across provision in order to deal with this challenging environment.

Nadine Cartner, Director of policy, Association for College Management (ACM) and Association of Managers in Education (AMiE).

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