Editor's comment

10th September 2004 at 01:00
One of the purposes of further education - and some would say one of its finest achievements - is to improve the prospects of the individual through learning.

We live, we are told, in an economy where economic success, for the individual and the country, can only be achieved through education - with the emphasis on vocational training.

Colleges would claim they are a crucial part of that process.,But how hollow that claim must sound to the legions of part-time lecturers who find themselves, in many cases, working for half the pay they would get for driving a tube train.

Apart from the requirement that all lecturers must hold or be working towards teaching qualifications, many also hold professional and trade qualifications and have experience outside FE which they pass on to their students.

The Learning and Skills Development Agency's report on part-timers, which aptly refers to the "ragged-trousered philanthropy of part-time staff", shows part-timers earning as little as pound;8 an hour.

And, quite ridiculously, three years after the formation of the Learning and Skills Council's "bureaucracy-busting task force", some lecturers report doing as much as an hour's paperwork for every hour they teach. In many cases, of course, this paperwork is done without remuneration, leaving the real level of pay for some lecturers closer to that of the supermarket shelf-stacker.

Colleges will always be able to find other organisations to blame for this plight, such as the Department for Education and Skills for failing to make more cash available for pay.

And then there are the 100-plus awarding bodies (that's one awarding body for every four colleges), each generating its own reams of red-tape for lecturers to unravel But we must remember that, in 1993, colleges entered willingly, in some cases with rabid enthusiasm, into the brave new world of incorporation which led to the explosion in the number of part-timers.

And with colleges' independence, and the opportunity to play at being a business, comes responsibility for their staff.

Employers in FE are right to be proud of the economic advancement which their institutions achieve for their students.

By the same token, it follows that they should be deeply ashamed of the extent to which they exploit the people who make it happen.

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