AoC chief Martin Doel warns Vince Cable against FE raid to fund HE shortfall as Budget looms

The chief executive of the Association of Colleges has warned Business Secretary Vince Cable against raiding the FE budget to fund higher education.

Martin Doel wrote to Dr Cable following reports that a failure to place controls on the number of students enrolling on higher learning qualifications at private colleges had left a massive shortfall in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) spending plans.

It provoked fear among sector leaders that funding could be transferred from the FE budget to higher education when the Autumn Budget statement is announced on Thursday (December 5).

Mr Doel, writing on November 27, warned Dr Cable about the “risks” associated with cutting spending on 19+ FE and skills.

He said: “I recognise that there are pressures in the higher education budget, but if these are caused by a higher than expected tuition fee level and greater than expected growth in private higher education numbers, then the sensible thing to do would be to introduce a greater degree of budgetary control to higher education and not to visit further spending restrictions on 19+ FE and skills.”

Mr Doel said colleges recognised the need to make public money go further and were waiting “with interest” for their funding levels to be confirmed, so they could plan for the next academic year and beyond.

“Over the next two years total universities’ income is expected to rise by 10 per cent according to forecasts published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England,” he said.

“Our forecast is that college income will fall by three per cent over the same period.”

A BIS spokesperson said: “Our reply to this ministerial correspondence will be issued in due course.”