High price for skills revolution

March 17, 2000

Colleges need more than Pounds 1 billion extra over the years 2002-03 and 2003-04 to make the learning and skills revolution happen, the Association of Colleges has warned.

Chancellor Gordon Brown must find money to reverse the annual 1 per cent efficiency cuts and provide a real-terms rise of 1 per cent a year, the association said. And then he must find millions more to expand student numbers further, for guidance services and for quality enhancement.

The AoC's shopping list will be given to ministers as its submission to the comprehensive spending review. It includes Pounds 400 million for student support to be funded by abolishing child benefit for 16 to 18-year-olds.

"The CSR provides the first opportunity to view as a whole the needs of the new learning and skills sector, which will be created next year," said the AoC.

The list includes the following:

An extra Pounds 120 million in 2002-03 and Pounds 250 million in 2003-04 to cut non-participation by 16 to 18-year-olds to fewer than 80,000 (7.5 per cent) by providing an additional 20,000 student places

* An extra Pounds 160 million in 2002-03 and Pounds 285 million in 2003-04 to increase adult enrolment by 150,000 a year

* An extra Pounds 60 million in 2002-03 and Pounds 150 million in 2003-04 to fund a 20,000 increase in full-

time higher education students

* An extra Pounds 20 million in 2002-03 and Pounds 40 million in 2003-04 for student advice

* An extra Pounds 20 million in 2002-03 and Pounds 50 million in 2003-04 for adult guidance

* Funds to improve quality and standards to be maintained at Pounds 160 million each year to 2003-04, with at least Pounds 50 million a year earmarked for training lecturers

* Pounds 90 million a year until 2003-04 in order to fund the Curriculum 2000 scheme for 16 to 19-year-olds

* Pounds 110 million a year in 2002-03 and 2003-04 for buildings and equipment

* Pounds 40 million investment in IT in each of the academic years 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Key among colleges' concerns is staff pay and conditions. The legacy of underfunding is the loss of some 20,000 lecturing jobs.

"The ability of colleges to recruit and retain capable staff across the full range of skills needed is now at risk," the AoC said. It recommends modern pay structures, with performance-

related pay.

The AoC suggests a universal scheme of student support. Key to this will be:

* An extra Pounds 400 million a year for a universal scheme of student support for 16 to 18-year-olds, which could be financed by the abolition of child benefit for that age group

* Income-contingent loans for full-time adult learners in colleges. Additional support - from a mixture of grants and loans - of Pounds 100 million in 2003 04.

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