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Taking action in higher education

Concerns about the future of local colleges to be discussed at public meeting

4 December 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

UCU will be speaking out about the threats posed by a review of colleges in Birmingham and Solihull at a public meeting on Tuesday (8 December).

Since September, the future of colleges in Birmingham and Solihull have been under review by the Further Education Commissioner. The Birmingham and Solihull 'area review' is part of the first wave of a national scheme to review the future of all English colleges.

The FE Commissioner is due to announce his recommendations about the Birmingham colleges in January 2016. These recommendations are very likely to include proposals for mergers, 'out-sourcing' of functions such as IT and administration, and a move towards sharing services between colleges. If the recommendations are accepted, they are scheduled to be implemented in September 2016.

But UCU believes the process is taking place too quickly and is solely based on financial considerations. It could mean a narrower choice of courses for future students affecting their job prospects, and spell job losses for staff.

Speakers at the meeting will include Michael MacNeil, national head of bargaining and negotiations at UCU, with representatives from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and Unison, as well as college students and staff.

UCU regional official, Anne O'Sullivan, said: 'The review is due to be completed in under four months from start to finish and we are not convinced in a city the size of Birmingham, that is enough time to do the job properly. From what we have seen so far, it seems the case for merging colleges in Birmingham and Solihull is solely based on costs.

'We are concerned that the end result will be a narrower choice of courses for students, alongside job losses, and worsening of terms and conditions for staff. The people of Birmingham and Solihull need the opportunities colleges can offer - now and in the future. Colleges can provide the skills and qualifications to transform lives and increase prosperity of the local communities they serve.

'We want reassurances that quality, access, and maintaining a wide range of courses are being given due weight in the review because this does not appear to be the case.'

The meeting is open to the public and will be held at 5.30pm on Tuesday 8 December at Carrs Lane, Centre, Birmingham, B4 7SX.

* FE colleges: Birmingham Metropolitan College/Bournville College/Solihull College/South & City College Birmingham. Sixth Form colleges: Cadbury Sixth Form College/Joseph Chamberlain College/The Sixth Form College Solihull

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