In an interview at the Association of Colleges (AoC) conference last week, FE News reporter Nadine Monem had a chance to speak with NUS president Kat Fletcher about her second term and her plans for Further Education.
A Unique Emphasis
Kat Fletcher’s administration takes pride in the fact that they place a unique emphasis on FE, as is evident in their appointment of an FE National Officer, elected by FE students and seeking to specifically represent FE concerns and viewpoints. Fletcher stresses that it is vital to give a voice to what she calls the “Cinderella” sector of education, to place the learner at the core of policy-making in Further Education.
In order to add more content to the voice of FE in student government, Fletcher thinks it is vitally important to facilitate a space for FE students to organize and lobby for their own concerns, namely a student union dedicated to FE. Fletcher acknowledges that it would be ineffectual to simply place the Higher Education student representation model inside the FE framework.
Instead, Kat Fletcher believes that FE students must be given the opportunity to develop their own system grown out of the concerns and needs of FE itself. Fletcher is adamant that an effective student union greatly enhances the student’s experience, and FE has been functioning without this important tool for far too long.
Troubled Waters in the Year Ahead?
When asked about the major issues facing FE in the upcoming year Fletcher persistently mentioned the vicious funding gap between FE and HE, which has recently risen from approximately ten to seventeen percent. This gap has been responsible for detrimental changes to FE courses, sometimes making it impossible for students to get the qualifications they require. It also makes it difficult for FE college to recruit and retain competent instructors.
Fletcher also intends to place the issues raised in the Tomlinson Report at the top of her agenda and lobby with several other organizations to ensure that these important recommendations are on the government’s agenda for education policy in the upcoming term in office.
Fletcher also commented on the increased collaboration between Further and Higher Education, and she insists that the NUS will facilitate such an increased collaboration by providing a space and a format for dialogue between all of the relevant parties. She hopes that this will result in joint-lobbies for policies that are important to FE and HE alike, specifically including closing the funding gap between the two sectors.
It remains to be seen what concrete policies emerge from these good intentions, but it is clear that the Fletcher administration does indeed have FE at the heart of its second term.
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