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Underfunded and Underpaid FE Sector Needs Funding Reform, says NUS

The National Union of Students (NUS) spoke out in support of the University and College Lecturers” union (NATFHE) protest over pay at Birmingham yesterday.

The NUS is the union that represents the interests of over 5 million students in both further and higher education in the UK. The NUS is committed to improving the lives and experiences of students in the UK, and is responsible for ensuring that their voices are heard and effectively represented. They have been active in campaigning for better recognition and funding for the FE sector, with Kat Fletcher, the NUS President in her second term, a product of the FE sector herself.

The Protest

The protest was the result of NATFHE members, of whom some 26,000 are FE lecturers, voting to strike over the pay gap that exists between them and the school sector. The pay gap, which amounts to some 10%, was hoped to be closing following the agreement of pay deals with the colleges for 2003 ““ 2005. In the event, however, the vast majority of colleges failed to meet that agreed pay deal (which in itself fell some way short of addressing the gap in funding).

After the offer of a new pay deal from the Association of Colleges (AoC) which was below the increase awarded to school teachers, some 71% of the lecturers voted to strike. The turnout, anticipated to amount to some 1,000 lecturers from across the country yesterday outside the AoC Conference, fell short of this figure, in part due to the news that some colleges had returned to the negotiating table following the threat of strike.

NUS Speak Out for FE Funding

The rally outside the Conference, coinciding with the visit of the Education Secretary Ruth Kelly to respond to the Foster Review and address delegates, was attended by a number of NUS members, of which over 2.5 million are in Further Education. Speaking outside the rally, Kat Fletcher said: “Earlier this week, the Foster Review praised the many achievements of our Further Education colleges. But how can this be sustained if it is a sector driven by staff struggling on poor wages?

“Teaching trade unions stood shoulder to shoulder with us in our fight against fees and will do so again,” she continued. “A highly motivated and valued college workforce benefits all students and it is important we show our support against under funding in the education system as a whole.”

Jethro Marsh

Will the new talks rumoured in individual colleges dissipate the ill feeling? Tell us in the FE Blog

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