Staff and students lobby MPs over FE loans scheme

Staff and students are campaigning against the introduction of FE loans today.

Protestors have written to the skills minister John Hayes asking for “urgent clarification” on whether the scheme will result in fewer places at FE colleges and independent training providers.

They will also be lobbying MPs in their local constituency.

Toni Pearce, vice president for further education at the National Union of Students (NUS) said: “The government’s own official prediction is that 100,000 learners will no longer be learning if this scheme goes ahead, and nearly two-thirds of those are set to be women.

“Ministers are slamming the door in the faces of adults who want to return to learning and gain basic skills, despite the evidence showing that it would put off many of those who want to study A-levels, apprenticeships or access courses to higher education.

“In the midst of a double-dip recession and with the spectre of unemployment, we need opportunities to develop skills and find jobs rather than attempts to throw people on the scrap heap.”

FE loans will be introduced next year for all learners aged 24 and above wishing to study at level 3 or higher.

However, the final Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) and Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) reports, published last week, show that adult learners studying at level 3 and 4 could drop from 359,000 to about 247,000 once the loans are introduced.

The national day of action has been organised by the NUS, Unison, University and College Union (UCU) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU said: “The minister urgently needs to clarify just how damaging these controversial plans will be.

“At a time of record levels of unemployment it is simply not acceptable to slash opportunity for 100,000 people.”

She said the projections in the final equality impact assessment and regulatory impact assessment were “quite staggering”.

“Colleges simply cannot absorb a 45 per cent cut in student numbers for people aged 24 and over,” she said.

“This would result in course closures, job losses and vastly diminished opportunities for adults and young people who need a second chance in education.”

(You can follow the day of action on Twitter using the hash tag #No2FEFees)