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Welsh colleges warn funding cuts could threaten courses

FE colleges in Wales have warned that they may be forced to cut courses, after the Welsh government announced that it would be pulling millions more in funding.

The cash allocated to FE colleges and institutions for 2014/15 will be £305 million, £5 million less than 2013/14.

Added to the £2.5 million of cuts made during the current academic year, the sector stands to lose £7.5 million over two years in cash terms.

ColegauCymru, the body that represents all of Wales’s FE colleges, warned there would be an impact on learning, although the scale is unclear until the government decides how much learning each college is expected to deliver.

Those targets are expected in the next few weeks.

John Graystone, chief executive of ColegauCymru, said that colleges would do their “utmost” to protect learning, but warned it would be tough.

“It would be unreasonable to expect colleges to deliver the same amount of learning next year, given two funding cuts in a row plus significant cost increases,” he said.

“As a nation, we cannot afford to reduce the investment in skills. We must support a growing economy. We must also maintain and strive to further improve quality across the whole of the education sector in Wales, and the further education is a key part of that.

“But the numbers of learners will inevitably reduce as colleges take a hard look at the number of courses they provide.”

ColegauCymru warned that because the Welsh government has protected funding for 16- to 18-year-olds in education and set aside cash to improve the skills of adults already in work, this latest cut would inevitably fall “disproportionately” on adults aged 19 and over who are not in work.

Deputy minister for skills Ken Skates (pictured) said that the government had been open about the “stark reality” of the financial challenges ahead and the difficult decisions that would have to be made.

“All FE institutions were told to expect at least a 5 per cent reduction in funding for 2014/15,” he said.

“However, we have been able to limit the reduction to under three percent

 “We are considering how we can mitigate the impact of these reductions and will be meeting with FE institutions to consider how best to approach delivery in future years.”

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