‘Cuts to adult education budgets are a devastating blow’, says academic trade union

UCU has today responded to analysis of adult education budgets published by the House of Commons library that suggests a third of further education colleges could be under threat.

The UK’s largest trade union and professional association for academic-related staff working in further and higher education, s​aid further government cuts could be the final nail in many courses and would shut the door on many learners who use adult education as a springboard for improving their skills.

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On the area reviews in further education the union stated that there is a danger that they could lead to a narrower curriculum and leave many students high and dry if their aspirations don’t match local economic priorities.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The current cuts to adult education budgets are a devastating blow to colleges and will change the face of further education in many parts of the country. Funding for adult skills has already fallen 35 per cent since 2009, and the latest reductions could be the final nail in the coffin for some courses. Not everyone needs or wants to study an apprenticeship, but colleges are being forced to prioritise apprenticeships over other kinds of learning. 

Labour commissioned researchers at the House of Commons library to model the effect of a 25 per cent cut on college budgets. According to the calculations this could mean the closure of 80 FE colleges and 56 sixth-form colleges — a total of 136 or 40 per cent of the 335 colleges, says the party. As college budgets are not protected, they are more vulnerable to huge funding cuts in George Osborne’s 2015 Spending Review, says Labour.

This follows the government’s review of post-16 education by the departments for education and Business, Innovation & Skills, which is “critical to our strategy of raising productivity and economic growth.”

Six form college leaders previously said they feared for the future of their students and their institutions – 70 per cent do not believe the amount of funding they are likely to receive in 2016 will be sufficient to provide students with a high quality education. While 83 per cent do not believe it will enable them to provide the support required by students that are educationally or economically disadvantaged.

“On top of the reduction in budgets, the focus on rationalisation and efficiency through area reviews can only lead to a narrower curriculum and risks leaving many students high and dry if their aspirations don’t match local economic priorities. Colleges need stable investment to continue to help people of all backgrounds fulfil their potential,” added Hunt. 



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