Thousands of lecturers have been left in the lurch after it emerged that there is no money for them to gain teaching qualifications, even though the deadline for meeting the professional standard is just two years away.
While those studying for postgraduate qualifications will continue to be funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, many - particularly those in work-based learning or adult and community education - rely on Learning and Skills Council (LSC) money, which has been hit by the Government's drive to prioritise people working towards their first level two qualification.
With teaching qualifications ranging from levels three to five and most lecturers already highly skilled in the industry from which they come, most will miss out.
The Institute for Learning, the professional body for lecturers, said it would be unjust if one group of lecturers lost the funding.
Lee Davies, IfL deputy chief executive and a former plumbing lecturer, said: "It's absolutely right that the Government makes the achievement of level two a priority.
"The big issue is that we take lecturers from business, industry and commerce, where they are highly qualified in their subject, but we need them to become qualified as teachers.
"The one message we want to put out is fairness and equity across the board. It shouldn't be an accident of where you do your learning - in higher education or an LSC-funded institution - that determines whether your qualification is funded or not."
He said teaching now faced the same issues as many other industries, where the focus on level two qualifications has made it hard for people to retrain for other careers.
Up to 16 per cent of the FE teaching workforce was enrolled on an LSC- funded teaching qualification in 2006-7, according to Lifelong Learning UK, the sector skills council for post-16 teachers. This suggests that about 14,000 lecturers could be affected by the lack of funding.
David Hunter, LLUK chief executive, has raised concerns about funding with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the LSC, and said they showed "goodwill and commitment".
"Ensuring we have teachers who are trained to national standards is essential to support learners across FE and to meet future skills challenges," he said.
By 2010, everyone teaching in FE who started after 2001 must have at least the level three Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector award, or be working towards it.
LLUK's survey found that more than 23 per cent of lecturers either had no teaching qualification, or their qualifications were unknown.
A department spokeswoman said they were continuing to hold discussions to reach a solution.