FURTHER education colleges are downgrading lecturers who "are only teaching vocational courses", union leaders claim.
Lecturers involved in running National Vocational Qualification courses are being offered the choice between redundancy or taking a lower-paid "instructor" or "supervisor" post, according to lecturers' union Natfhe.
The trend began as a cost-cutting exercise by cash-strapped colleges, but is now threatening the quality of NVQ programmes, Natfhe says.
College heads say instructors, who are not usually involved in preparing teaching materials or marking, are sufficient to run NVQ courses which are designed to test workplace competencies rather than academic ability.
Instructors are usually on a pay scale ranging from Pounds 12,200 to Pounds 14,500 a year, rather than Pounds 12,200 to Pounds 22,200 for lecturers.
Sue Berryman, Natfhe's further education negotiating secretary, said the incentive was to get lecturers "on the cheap", but the effect was to lower the status and quality of NVQ courses, as well as de-professionalising FE teaching.
"There may be a role for instructors in FE, but it is not to do with replacing lecturers in delivering courses, whether they be academic or technical and vocational," she said.
Catering lecturers at the Royal Forest of Dean College were told their department would close unless they took voluntary redundancy or became supervisors.
Gill Young, principal of the college, said replacing lecturers with supervisors on NVQ courses was "a more cost-effective way of delivering the curriculum".
She said: "On NVQ courses, students are practising and developing their skills, rather than learning new ones. One positive point is that by reorganising the roles of staff you can manage to give more contact hours to the students."
The NCVQ declined to comment.