The Association of Colleges (AoC) has issued a plea to the Labour Party not to raid the FE budget to pay for higher education.

An Aoc spokesperson said Labour leader Ed Miliband (pictured above) was expected to announce a policy of cutting maximum university fees for students by a third, from £9,000 to £6,000.

And the BBC’s Robert Peston said yesterday that he had been told by the Labour Party that it was planning to cut the maximum fee higher education providers could charge by a third. Labour did not deny the claim.

But AoC chief executive Martin Doel (pictured below right) warned the FE and skills sector could not “stand by” while funding to pay for the higher education policy was taken from its budget.

“While we welcome Labour’s commitment to ensuring that higher education is accessible for as many people as possible, we must urge caution about how the funding for a reduction in tuition fees will be found,” he said.

“Great care would be needed to ensure there is not a knock-on effect for the rest of the education system.”

University tuition fees were raised from £3,000 a-year to £9,000 in 2010, despite a Liberal Democrat promise to abolish them.

However, in October, Business Secretary Vince Cable revealed he had blocked moves by civil servants to “effectively kill off FE” by taking from the sector’s budget to fund the pledge.

Mr Doel said: “FE for people aged 19 and over has already sustained heavy funding cuts of 22 per cent since 2009-10. We can’t stand by and see this budget raided to sustain higher education in universities alone, just as it was in Scotland.”

He said political parties should not forget that colleges also provide technical and professional education at levels four and five.

“As all parties look to increase the number of apprenticeships, we need to ensure that the money to fund university fees is not taken away from the FE sector which is expected to deliver this training,” he said.

He added the next government should conduct a “once in a generation funding review” spending at each stage of education.

A Labour spokesperson said: “In trebling tuition fees, this government has managed to find a system of university finance that puts a huge burden of debt on students, while almost costing the taxpayer more than it saves.

“It lets down both the next generation and the public finances.”

He added the party would announce details of its education policy in due course.