Forcing trainee FE teachers to pay thousands of pounds in tuition fees could lead to a "collapse" in training and force scores of college courses to close, experts have warned.
Tuition fees for trainee college teachers are largely funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) but, under proposals put forward in the Browne review of higher education funding, students could be forced to cover the full costs of training themselves.
Denise Robinson, director of the Consortium for Post-Compulsory Education and Training, said part-time students receiving "in-service" training - the route favoured by around 90 per cent of FE teachers - might have to pay as much as pound;8,000 for a two-year course when the changes come into effect in 201213 - more than five times the current fee of pound;1,500.
"It's an absolutely massive increase," she said. "Lots of older people go into college teaching, but if they have to pay full tuition fees that may not be the case.
"Many of our students are in their 30s or 40s. They already have a mortgage, a car loan and children; they don't want to take on a lot of debt.
"They have got the experience we need for the skills agenda - we need their vocational skills to teach young people."
The Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) said tuition fees for full-time courses could amount to pound;6,000 per year.
James Noble-Rogers, UCET's executive director, said the withdrawal of funding would lead to a "collapse of university and college training for teachers for this sector, and to the consequent impoverishment of the education received by young people and other learners".
He added: "The question is, how many people will be dissuaded from wanting to teach in the sector? It would make it less attractive.
"Colleges are already under extreme pressure. If (trainee teachers) don't do training, the courses will probably fold, and the Government's professionalisation agenda will be put at risk."
Leading figures in the sector will meet FE minister John Hayes in February to discuss the changes.
Currently, universities and directly funded FE colleges receive HEFCE cash to pay for teacher training courses. Full-time students have access to bursaries, which cover the cost of fees and some living expenses, while part-time students' employers have access to grants to cover their fees.
John Lea, who chairs UCET's post-16 committee, said: "It is somewhat perverse, because the Government remains fully committed to employing vocationally based teachers, but through these proposed cuts in funding it is not providing the means by which many could become fully fledged professional teachers.
"Yes, those teachers could take out loans, but the worry is that their pay will often not be sufficient to make such a personal investment worthwhile."
A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "This Government is committed to ensuring further education providers can maintain a professionally qualified teaching workforce with up-to-date skills.
"Discussions will take place in the new year with the Association of Colleges and others around proposed changes in funding for FE initial teacher training, and how we ensure the sector continues to deliver the best quality teaching and learning."
- Original headline: Training could `collapse' if fees are forced on lecturers