Job losses planned at half of colleges

8th April 2011 at 01:00
Financial pressures will force 40 per cent to cut courses, survey reveals

More than half of colleges are planning to lay off staff, and more than 40 per cent are to axe courses as a result of projected funding cuts, according to a new survey.

Support and teaching staff are bearing the brunt of financial pressures in the FE sector, a survey published today by the University and College Union (UCU) and Unison reveals, and almost a quarter of colleges have been forced to turn away prospective students as a result of a drop in funding.

The survey also reveals that 93 per cent of the colleges that responded to the survey have already made employees redundant since June 2009, with 80 per cent saying they had cut courses or student provision in the same period.

Public-sector union Unison said colleges were being "cut to the quick" and warned "the worst is yet to come".

Out of the 146 colleges that responded, 53 per cent said jobs were currently at risk, with 41 per cent saying they intended to cut courses or student provision over the next 12 months.

Of the redundancies already made, 45 per cent were support staff, 42 per cent were teachers and 12 per cent were managerial roles.

Unison's national officer for FE Chris Fabby said: "College bosses should be cautious - job cuts and course closures will damage their competitiveness and their ability to attract students in the future.

"Colleges need to put jobs cuts on hold and get round the table with unions to look at alternatives to redundancies and course closures."

Twenty-three per cent of colleges said they had turned students away as a direct result of budget cuts.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said the Government's announcements about promoting social mobility this week were in stark contrast to its decision to slash 25 per cent from the FE budget by 2015.

"Education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet when it comes to helping people climb the social ladder, yet since this Government took power it has made it much harder for people to have a second chance," she said.

"It is essential that colleges join with us in opposing these cuts and are not panicked into making short-term changes that will do lasting damage to their local communities."

Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "In such financially stringent times, some colleges will inevitably have to consider restructuring in order to protect front-line services as far as possible and to ensure they remain strong enough to continue to serve their students and their local communities in the long-term."

Mr Gravatt said colleges were keen to work with their "excellent" staff to find "more creative ways of handling any restructuring" to avoid redundancies where possible, and were "working hard" to save courses.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "In the current economic climate it is necessary to focus investment where its impact is maximised. Over the spending review period we will increase investment in apprenticeships, protect investment in adult and community learning, and fully fund literacy and numeracy provision and first full level 2 and level 3 qualifications for young adults.

"Ultimately FE colleges are self-governing, independent organisations and as such they are responsible for their own terms and conditions, pay and workforce modelling."

Original headline: `The worst is yet to come': job losses planned at half of colleges

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