Push for fees and students

5th May 2006 at 01:00
A college praised by ministers as a model for coping with fee increases in adult education has said it was forced to cut nearly 2,000 student places.

City College Brighton and Hove said the ministers were right to point out that student numbers had risen by more than 1,000 in the past two years following a marketing drive.

But it said that increase did not compensate for an earlier sharp fall, prompted by the Learning and Skills Council's changes in funding priorities.

The comments came after Bill Rammell, the FE minister, and Phil Hope, the skills minister, used the college's example to defend the Government from criticism about the cuts to adult education.

Mr Rammell told MPs on the education and skills select committee last week:

"At Brighton they have doubled their fees at the same time as increasing significantly learner numbers.

"They have done it by going out into the community, consulting and making real comparisons with, for example, things like water charges."

Mr Hope also attributed Brighton's success in sustaining increased fees and higher student numbers to good communication.

But the college said adult student numbers have fallen from 5,877 five years ago to about 4,000 this year.

John Evans, deputy principal, said: "When we first knew there were going to be pressures put on the adult education budget we took some fairly drastic decisions.

"It gave our adult educators time to do a lot of marketing. But it has to be acknowledged that we have lost students as a result."

John Brennan, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said colleges could not be expected to raise fees and maintain student numbers without help. He said: "We think government needs to do more to create a climate in which employers and individuals accept the need to invest in their own learning."

A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills said that a MORI poll had shown that people were willing to pay more for classes.

"It should still be possible for colleges to increase fees for other courses such as learning for personal and community development and there is no reason why good courses should close where there is demand for them,"

he said.

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