THE PUBLIC expenditure settlement for further education in Wales, which makes real-terms cuts even beyond those planned by the Conservative government, will make life "incredibly difficult in terms of financial pressure on the sector and in terms of morale".
So said John Andrews, chief executive of the Further and Higher Education Funding Councils for Wales, after receiving notice from the Welsh Office of the settlement for 1998/89.
The funding council will receive a grant of Pounds 175 million for 63,000 full-time equivalent funding students. Compared to the 1997/98 target, this is just under Pounds 2 million less for an extra 4,500 students - a cut of 10.7 per cent per student. It does offer more money, an extra Pounds 5.4 million, than was projected under the Conservative secretary of state, William Hague, but an extra 2,100 students means that this is still a real-terms cut. The Hague settlement projected a 9.8 per cent cut in cash per student.
Higher than expected recruitment means that the likely real figures for 1997/98 will be Pounds 181.5 million for 62,100 students, making the actual real-terms cut about 7.8 per cent per student. Professor Andrews said the council was waiting for the government's comprehensive spending review: "Additional money for further education will be absolutely vital."
Mike Jones, chief executive of Fforwm (Welsh Further Education Colleges) said: "This will put colleges under intolerable pressure. The sector can't be expected to maintain standards and teach more students at the same time as cutting budgets. It makes it very difficult to respond to the needs of the Welsh economy."
The higher education settlement, which follows last month's announcement of an extra Pounds 10 million, is within the Dearing recommended maximum efficiency gain of 1 per cent per student. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales will receive a total of Pounds 306.2 million for 66,400 full-time equivalent students, compared to this year's initial projection of Pounds 300 million for 65,100 students.
Professor Andrews said, "I would have been pleased if we could have done as well for further education, although I am still concerned that the cuts made in 1996 have not been restored, so spending per student is still well below English levels."