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UCU says proper support needed if government wants to deliver on budget promises

UCU today welcomed increased investment in further education in the budget. However, the union said the government needed to recognise that quality training to even more students could not be delivered without proper investment in staff and buildings.

It also expressed concerns that the Chancellor did not take the opportunity to offer more for the higher education sector, which the union said will also play a crucial role in helping the country and individuals through the tough economic climate.

Key budget announcements for further education:

  • job or training guarantee for all long-term unemployed people under 25
  • more than £260m in new money for training and subsidies
  • £300m for college building projects
  • an extra £250m in 2009-10 and £400m in 2010-11 to provide an extra 54,000 places in sixth form and further education colleges next year.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Colleges can play a key role in helping to train people, especially those made redundant or unable to find work, but they need proper infrastructure and support. We welcome the additional funds to try and resolve the recent college buildings fiasco. However, this in no way compensates the money already spent by colleges on approved building projects, which will seriously undermine those colleges' efforts to deliver government priorities.  Most importantly, additional training for even more students simply cannot be delivered by an already overstretched staff. Further education lecturers work some of the longest hours in the UK and without an increase in staff the quality of education and training will be seriously compromised.

'Access to education will be vital in helping individuals and the country get through the current tough economic climate and this afternoon the Chancellor should have offered more for higher education. We believe the budget was an excellent opportunity for the government to reverse its decision on funding cuts for people wishing to reskill at degree level* as now, more than ever, people need support for a second chance.'

*The funding cut for ELQs has been described as this government's least popular education policy following widespread criticism from unions, universities and the other political parties.  ELQs are qualifications that are equivalent to, or lower than, one that a person has already achieved.

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