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'These plans will not undo a decade of cuts' - UCU response to prime minister's skills speech

29 September 2020 | last updated: 13 October 2020

Responding to a speech by the prime minister on skills, UCU said further education desperately needed funding because of a decade of cuts under Conservative governments

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'Further education is in dire need of funding, but that is because Conservative and coalition governments of the last 10 years have decimated it. It is remarkable that the prime minister has the audacity to lament a lack of funding for colleges, and to criticise record student debt levels, when they are the direct result of decisions taken by his party. Today's plans will not undo a decade of cuts.

'We welcome the recognition of the role that colleges will have to play if we are to "come back stronger and build back better", as the prime minister said. But, we have 24,000 fewer lecturers than a decade ago, and staff have suffered a 30% real-terms pay cut over that time. Colleges say they are already struggling to attract and retain staff to meet current demand.

'These rehashed funding plans will simply not be enough to enable further education to lead our recovery. We need to see the funding to match the ambition.

'Everyone should be entitled to education as part of a national recovery effort that addresses both our economic and social needs. Post-Covid we will likely require many who do not have post A-level education to also adapt to a new normal as well. A universal education entitlement will be required for the nation to get through this.'

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies released last year found that adult education, further education and skills spending on young people have been hardest hit by austerity since 2010.

It found that between 2010-11 and 2018-19, spending per student fell by 12% in real terms in 16-18 colleges and by 23% in school sixth forms. Following on from larger cuts during the 1990s and lower growth than most other stages of education during the 2000s, further education spending per 16-to-18-year-old is due to be only about 13% greater in 2018-19 than it was about 30 years earlier in 1989-90.

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