FE:more cash for more students

November 27, 1998

An extra Pounds 584 million will be pumped into further education in 2000-2001, but colleges will be expected to take an extra 200,000 students.

Announcing the comprehensive spending review settlement, education secretary David Blunkett told the Association of Colleges' conference yesterday that Pounds 470 million would improve college standards, widen participation and improve equipment and buildings. The college sector had asked for Pounds 500 million.

The Department for Education and Employment has confirmed an extra 200,000 students in further education above the 500,000 promised by prime minister Tony Blair last year.

The Pounds 114 million allocated to student support in 2000-2001, with Pounds 69 million extra in 1999-2000 falls short of AoC demands even before the extra 200,000 was known. New chief executive David Gibson had said he would be disappointed with anything less than Pounds 300 million. Graham Lane, who chaired the Further Education student SupportAdvisory Group, called for a Pounds 400 million package.

The announcement brings the total to be invested in further education and student support over the next two years to Pounds 908 million. This includes the additional Pounds 324 million for 1999-2000.

The 2000-2001 package comprises:

* Pounds 335 million to widen participation

* Pounds 80 million for a standards fund to improve teaching, spread good practice, provide management training and tackle failing colleges

* Pounds 55 million capital funding, including cash for information technology and communications

* Pounds 114 million to help students with additional costs, such as transport and child care, which could become barriers to study. It will also fund pilot schemes for an education maintenance allowance due to begin next autumn.

Mr Blunkett made it clear that the additional money was being provided on the strict understanding that improved standards and access were delivered and that college management and governance were improved.

He said: "Further education is too important to our economy and society for us to tolerate poor standards or a lack of accountability. Too many students drop out and too many fail to get their qualifications. The money I am announcing comes with a warning: we will be as tough on failing colleges as we have been on failing schools."

The AoC is also likely to be disappointed that yesterday's announcement did not include spending for 2001-2002. The CSR set the overall education budget for the next three years in July but announced further and higher education's share for 1999-2000 only. Both sectors were told that there would be further announcements in the autumn. They interpreted this as announcements for the settlements in both 2000-2001 and 2001-2002.

John Brennan, the AoC's director of FE development, said: "With half of all colleges operating at a loss it is vital that they are able to plan their way out of this."

Mr Blunkett's announcement came as a study, funded jointly by the Further Education Funding Council and the Department for Education and Employment, revealed that more than half of further education students had experienced financial hardship.

Claire Callender, of South Bank University, recommended a radically overhauled student support system which prioritised the needs of the most financially vulnerable, such as adult students.

AoC's wish list

* a maximum 1 per cent efficiency gain.

* funding for the extra 420,000 students it had expected by 2002.

* capital investment

* equal funding for further education providers and colleges who carry out HE and universities.

* improved student support.

Natfhe's wish list

* Average funding levels for all colleges of Pounds 18.20 per unit of resource

* cash for pay rises, staff development and new teaching qualifications

* funding parity between schools and colleges

* fully funded expansion

* New Deal education and training funded at the same level as other FE provision

* capital funding to accommodate the extra students

* more IT investment

* restoration of cuts to prison and local authority adult provision

* radical reform of A and AS levels and GNVQs

Quality clampdown, page 3

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