College managers are planning to cut thousands of senior academic jobs next year in their struggle to tackle growing financial deficits.
The massive wave of redundancies is a matter of simple economics, according to the Colleges Employers Forum which is advising 122 colleges on redundancy programmes. Roger Ward, CEF chief executive, said: "Some colleges are planning to lose fewer than ten jobs but others are looking at substantially more and the final tally will not be counted in tens or even hundreds of jobs. The honeymoon period in further education is drawing to a close."
Many principals delayed the introduction of redundancies last year in the hope of benefitting from funding council income and extra earned income, but, said Mr Ward, their hopes were not realised. Most were trying to cope by offering voluntary severance but few principals will now rule out compulsory job losses.
About 70 per cent of college budgets are spent on staff costs and up to a quarter are expected to show deficits in their final accounts for the past 16 months, due at the end of this month.
David Eade, principal of Barnsley College, which will report a modest surplus, said the current funding policy was in the long-term interests of students but would lead to a bumpy ride for many colleges. Rotherham College of Arts and Technology is facing a deficit of more than Pounds 1 million, putting 40 jobs at risk. Full-time course hours have been reduced to 19 per week and the principal has sought permission from the Further Education Funding Council to borrow extra funds.
John Bevan of the Association for Colleges warned against early job cuts which were compulsory, unstructured and unsupported. Anecdotal evidence suggests that colleges are following schools and replacing senior jobs with much lower grade positions. Mr Ward said the senior lecturer grade was being "rapidly abandoned across the land".
Natfhe, the lecturers' union, is already seeing the first signs of scaling down. Margaret John, regional official in Yorkshire and Humberside, said she was dealing with a growing number of redundancy consultations.
The CEF insists that redundancies are not connected to the introduction of new flexible contracts for lecturers and has circulated a survey this week showing that most staff can be expected to transfer to new contracts by January 1995.
The survey also reveals that one college had dismissed staff who refused to sign new contracts and two were actively considering dismissals. A few colleges said that non-signers would be vulnerable to redundancy.