English college review risks jobs and closures, warns union

Similar Scottish review saw the number of colleges cut from 43 to 26, with fewer places for students and thousands of job cuts

UNISON is warning that a review of further education colleges in England, which talks of “fewer, often large, more resilient and efficient providers”, means a serious threat to members’ job security and raises the possibility of college closures and relocations.

A similar review of colleges in Scotland saw the number of colleges reduced from 43 to 26, alongside a reduction of student places and thousands of job cuts.

The English review is part of plans to restructure further education, with the Westminster government citing “the need to reduce public expenditure” as a major driving factor.

The review document proposes the restructuring of post-16 education and training will take place through a series of area-based reviews, in four separate ‘waves’.

These reviews will look at curriculum, estates and so-called “back-office” functions to “create more financially stable and efficient providers and improved collaboration across the different types of institution”, the document says.

Each review will be led by a steering group made up of “a range of stakeholders”, including colleges, local authorities, regional schools commissioners, college commissioners and local enterprise partnerships.

But staff trade unions have not been included as stakeholders. They will have to hold parallel meetings with key members of the steering groups in order to find out what is going on.

UNISON has produced dedicated online information, including a spreadsheet setting out which reviews involve which colleges, as well as guidance for UNISON branches.