Tuition hit as new wave of cuts breaks

Student contact hours are being cut and college heads are urgently seeking newer, cheaper teaching methods as a new wave of redundancies breaks.

The Association of Colleges estimates that about 10,000 lecturers have left the profession since incorporation. But as the Government's efficiency drives continue, some colleges are set to impose budget cuts of up to Pounds 1. 7 million and lay off 60 or more staff to balance deficits. Many had postponed decisions until full enrolment figures were known.

At Hendon College, 22 lecturers took voluntary redundancy in the summer. The college has a deficit of Pounds 500,000 and has restructured its management, cutting the deputy principal post. Two of its four sites have also been closed.

Andrew Whitaker, finance director, said: "We hope to achieve 8 per cent growth by September next year. Our strategy is to move away from lecture-based learning courses, to more resource-based learning." Like many colleges, Hendon is looking to information technology resource centres, with less direct teaching.

Derek Betts, assistant secretary of the lecturers' union NATFHE, said: "We have never had a redundancy trawl quite like this. We have lost one-quarters of the staff in FE since the peak of 198889. At the same time colleges have increased student numbers by more than 40 per cent.

"Sixty colleges are in real financial difficulty and there are very few not talking about cuts in staffing. More efficiency gains of between 20-30 per cent are going to be required and you can take these figures as the number of people who are going to go," he said.

Oldham College announced 61 redundancies, although principal Carol Gibson hopes fewer will have to go. The college must make savings of Pounds 1.5 million over two years from a budget of Pounds 9 million.

Another college, West Cheshire, has asked for 30 voluntary redundancies and is changing to workshops, cutting direct teaching. "We had accommodation as well as financial problems," said Jo Cooper, marketing officer. "It's tough here, like everywhere else."

Changes in pension rules are causing concern in many colleges. Worcester College of Technology plans to reduce the age profile of staff. It is cutting 13 lecturing and support staff.

John Henderson, the principal, said: "Another worry is that although numbers are increasing in subjects like leisure and tourism, there is a big decline in engineering, science and construction."

Rotherham College of Arts and Technology has a deficit of Pounds 1.7 million and 45 staff are being made redundant, mainly compulsorily. "But there was no question the place was over-staffed," John Rockett, the principal, admits. "We had the worst record in the country. But the FEFC cuts are having their effect as well."

Tameside College of Technology is looking for up to 55 redundancies among academic and support staff. "We need to run the same size college for about Pounds 1 million less than we do now." said Tony Sanderson, the principal. The pension changes meant everyone over 50 had to reconsider their future, he said: "It is a terrible decision for the sector."

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