College cutbacks concern all

May 25, 2001

Colchester was created as a new constituency in 1997 and is the tightest three-way marginal in the country with just 2,000 votes separating the three parties.

Liberal Democrat Bob Russell, a former University of Essex press officer, who clinched the seat in 1997, is acutely aware of the student vote. The university's campus is in north Essex, but many of the students live in Colchester. On top of that, there are the 12,000 students at the Colchester Institute.

Mr Russell said: "There are two key issues for students in this area - tuition fees, and job cuts and loss of A-level courses at the Colchester Institute."

Gwyn Phillips, vice-president, communications, at Essex University student union, said: "I think there is a general sense that Labour has betrayed students with the introduction of fees and the loss of grants. I imagine that many who voted Labour in 1997 will vote tactically and vote for Bob Russell."

Peter Pitcher, welfare officer at the Colchester Institute student union, said: "To tell you the truth I was not aware there was a general election coming up. I'm 17 so I can't vote. I've been more concerned with reassuring students who've started A levels here that they will be able to finish them."

Labour's Chris Fegan said: "Students need to be aware that half of all students do not pay tuition fees and opportunity bursaries are available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This Labour government has put record amounts of money into higher education."

Conservative Kevin Bentley said: "The Conservative policy of endowing universities will give them independence and more financial freedom. I left school at 16 and did not do a degree. But if I wanted to return and do A levels and some sort of access course, it is vital that places like Colchester Institute offer such provision."

All three candidates are concerned at what has happened at Colchester Institute. The institute is considering 50 redundancies and moving from A-level courses to more vocational ones.

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