Students demand a say

November 15, 1996

STUDENTS lobbied MPs and funding chiefs this week to demand a greater say in further education policy and more cash for colleges.

Theirs were among the loudest voices expressing grievances to a Further Education Funding Council annual general meeting, in London, which witnessed a mainly gentle grilling of council staff.

David Melville, FEFC chief executive since September, was anxious to persuade colleges he was on their side, sympathising with neglect of the sector and questioning Government claims that recent changes in pension arrangements would leave them better off. But he said much of the burden of improving the sector's lot lay with the colleges.

The council intended to leave colleges to carry out much of their own monitoring so that it could concentrate on those with particular problems.

More than 50 students were at the meeting, followed by a lobby of Parliament on Tuesday as part of a campaign day run by the National Union of Students.

They demanded formal student input into regional committees of the funding council and action on the 40 colleges which so far had no student representation on their governing bodies.

They also called for details of the action plans implemented by colleges which failed inspections to be made public and wanted assurances that all costs incurred by students during their studies would be detailed in college prospectuses.

Mr Melville said he supported more student representation on governing bodies but the issue was up to individual corporations.

Responding to concerns about new pension arrangements for colleges, Mr Melville contradicted Government claims in warning that the arrangements were likely to leave colleges out of pocket. Under the deal, employers will have to pay a share of the costs of early retirement. They have also seen increases in their contributions to the local government superannuation scheme, which runs pensions for most college support staff, although their contributions to the teachers' pensions scheme have been reduced. "There will be very large costs likely to be incurred by colleges in relation to superannuation payments," he said.

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