COLLEGE bosses say students across Hartlepool will be affected by a devastating 24 per cent cut in funding for further education.
Hartlepool College of Further Education and East Durham College in Peterlee have joined forced with further education chiefs across the region to campaign against the cut from the Skills Funding Agency.
Bosses at the Hartlepool college have not yet revealed how much funding it is set to lose, but East Durham College chiefs say it will be more than £800,000 in the next academic year.
Hartlepool College of Further Education, which currently supports around 6,000 adult learners, is reeling from the news, which could force numerous courses to be slashed.
Darren Hankey, principal at the college, said: “It is dreadful news. It is going to have a really wide impact on people across the town.
“We know there are massive skills shortages and then its all cuts, cuts, cuts, it seems a perverse response.”
Mr Hankey said skills need to be improved to allow the region to compete in a global economy and to combat an ageing workforce, but this move goes against that.
East Durham College principal, Suzanne Duncan, said the announcement by the Skills Funding Agency will result in a loss of more than £800,000 to the college in the next academic year.
She said: “The reduction in funding for adult skills will greatly hinder opportunities for adults to become qualified for a job and threaten their prospects if they need to retrain during their working life.”
Colleges claim the national £460million reduction will result in swathes of adult education courses being removed, including employability courses to help people into work and tackle social and economic exclusion and vocational courses to plug the skills gap.
In an unprecedented move, principals from 16 colleges across the North East, including Hartlepool College of Further Education and East Durham College, have joined forces with union leaders to lobby publicly against the cuts.
They have written to MPs asking for questions to be tabled in Parliament and signed a nationwide petition led by the University and College Union (UCU) which has thousands of signatories.
The principals are also asking students and the business community to support the campaign.
They are being supported by the Association of Colleges, whose chief executive, Martin Doel, said: “The fact that colleges in the North East have come together to campaign against the cuts demonstrates what a big issue it is for them.
“Adult education and training is effectively being decimated. It is too important to be lost and these cuts could mean an end to the vital courses that train people in the North East such as nurses and social care workers.”
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “These cuts are a devastating blow to colleges and risk decimating further education.
“Slashing budgets this harshly could be the final nail in the coffin for the types of courses that help people get back to work.”