We must help people into education, not shut them out
As a further education college lecturer, I have seen the damage SNP cuts are doing to FE colleges. This government is not only cutting the funding; it is cutting people’s life chances.
It is well documented that over 140,000 places have been cut by the SNP government. Nearly 7 million college learning hours have been cut back.
In 2012 my maiden speech at full council was the request below to Scottish Government’s Education Secretary:
“Council recognises the fantastic work carried out by Glasgow’s colleges and cherishes the opportunities they extend to the people of Glasgow and beyond.
Council is clear that, given the economic and employment downturns impacting so harshly on Glasgow, the further education sector is one that needs to grow, to afford those struggling to find work the chance to learn a skill set or develop existing qualifications. Consequently, Council requests that the Chief Executive write to the Scottish Government’s Education Secretary to reconsider the far-reaching cuts being levelled at further education and commit to sufficient funding for Glasgow’s colleges.”
However, over the last few years we’ve seen the sector reorganised, we’ve moved away from the smaller independent colleges and towards our larger city wide colleges. You only have to look at the figures.
There’s been a 40% drop in the number of students enrolled in colleges, with an astonishing 34,000 part time places lost in Glasgow’s colleges between 2008/9 and 2013/14. These aren’t my numbers, these are numbers coming from the Scottish Funding Council.
In particular the fall in part time places is having a big impact – with women being hit especially hard. Maybe it’s someone with caring responsibilities, or someone trying to hold down part time work to help them fund their studies, or any number of other circumstances – we should be trying to make sure we can help as many people as possible into education – not shutting them out because of this inflexibility.
We’re all tightening our belts, but it seems that colleges are facing disproportionately high cuts in favour of universities. Of course we all want world class universities – and we’re all proud of our three here in Glasgow – but we need to make sure education is there to help everyone and not just those going to university. The Scottish Government need to make sure they’re supporting our colleges and not cutting people out.
Education needs to be there for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds. It’s there to help people to learn new skills, to improve their job prospects and to help them get on in life. Colleges have helped so many – let’s make sure they continue to help people across Glasgow and across Scotland in the years ahead too.