Any funding review of English further education needs “to recognise the real cost of providing a high-quality college education in this country,” said UNISON today after the government said it would be reviewing the sector.
Skills minister Anne Milton told MPs during education questions yesterday that departmental official will “assess how far the current funding system meets the costs of high-quality provision in the further education sector and will update the house shortly.”
Ms Milton, who was answering questions from Labour MPs, added that the government is conducting a post-16 education and funding review and, “alongside this, we’re also looking at the efficiency and resilience of the FE sector.”
Prime Minister Theresa May announced a separate review of post-18 education and funding in February.
UNISON welcomed yesterday’s news, but head of further education Ruth Levin pointed out that colleges have faced underfunding leading to job cuts, course closures and larger class sizes “for many years”.
“Pay in further education has fallen by more than 21% in real terms over the past nine years,” she added.
On top of that, she said, many colleges have not implemented recommended pay rises in recent years, which means some staff have seen their pay cut by more than 25%.
“UNISON is calling for the funding review to recognise the real cost of providing a high-quality college education in this country,” said Ms Levin.
“With Brexit around the corner, it is more vital than ever that we have skills and technical education that trains the workforce of the future.
“To underpin this, colleges need to be able to attract and retain high quality staff – to support students throughout their college education.
“UNISON welcomes the review and is calling for it to recognise the real costs of employing college staff.”
That is part of making sure that colleges are well resourced and able to support both young learners and those returning to education or retraining, she added.