The Association of Colleges is making its largest ever call for investment in FE.
In its submission to Treasury ahead of next month’s spending review and autumn budget, the AoC argues for a 50 per cent increase in total revenue spending on further education and skills. This would mean that in 2024/25, the sector’s revenue budget will have increased to £11.8 billion from today’s £7.9 billion.
The spending review will provide all government departments with their spending parameters for the next three years.
For its capital proposals, the AoC wants to see spending increase by £605 million, to £813 million in 2024/25.
In a letter to the chancellor, AoC chief executive David Hughes states: “This is one of so many letters you will receive asking for a boost in funding… I would ask you to view our asks as investments which will give you, the public finances, people and businesses returns which will help pay for other public services.”
Proposals within the AoC’s near 6,000-word submission cut across three priority areas: closing skills gaps, addressing lost learning and inequalities, and reaching a net-zero carbon economy.
“Rebuilding the country and meeting the challenges of the future is going to require determined action on long-standing inequalities across the education system, rising to the challenges posed by climate change and recognising that without colleges, levelling up will remain merely a slogan,” Hughes said.
College wonks have capitalised on the first multi-year spending review since 2015, arguing for an annual five per cent increase in both adult skills and 16-to-18 education budgets for the next three years. This would take the 16-to-18 base rate from £4,188 today to £4,848 in 2024/25.
Other proposals include a new £150 million climate action capital budget to fund colleges’ green estates plans, grants and loans for living costs to support the government’s lifelong learning agenda, and raiding the “unused university restructuring budget” to create a small, new college restructuring fund.
On apprenticeships, the AoC is calling for the government to take greater control, more incentives to encourage employers to prioritise new job entrants over existing workers, “weighted” funding for practical and growth sectors and for built-in progression incentives from other programmes, such as Kickstart and traineeships. The apprenticeship levy, though, should be maintained at its current level.
Whitehall departments, including the Department for Education, have been asked to find at least five per cent in savings, prompting alarm about the possibility of funding cuts, rather than increases.