LECTURERS' union Natfhe has called for a Dearing-style inquiry into further education.
Natfhe's national executive voted last Friday to campaign for "an urgent short inquiry" into further education along the lines of Sir Ron Dearing's review of higher education. It is to instruct local branches to lobby parliamentary candidates.
Natfhe says that although Sir Ron is likely to cover further education in his report, this will not be enough. The pressures distorting the sector are so great that "tinkering" is useless.
Dan Taubman, Natfhe's assistant secretary for further education, said: "We want an urgent inquiry into the role and purpose of FE and funding mechanisms. Until this reports we want to see a consolidation budget for colleges."
This would restore college funding to last year's levels and freeze expansion by ending penalties on colleges that fail to reach their student number targets.
The Government has an-nounced that it is to stop paying colleges that over-recruit students from next academic year. This demand-led element (DLE) was worth Pounds 84 million to the Further Education Funding Council this year, 2.7 per cent of its budget which is Pounds 3.07 billion for 1997/98.
Based on Government expenditure, the FEFC expects to have to make 5 per cent efficiency gains next year and for the two subsequent years. Adding the 2.7 per cent DLE loss takes the efficiency gains required to nearly 8 per cent, or some Pounds 245 million a year.
Set against this, FEFC projections show full and part-time student numbers set to rise by 15.6 per cent, around 500,000, over the next two years.
Natfhe has been preparing its response to the Further Education Funding Council's consultation exercise on future funding mechanisms in the light of the end of DLE payments. The FEFC's deadline for responses is today.