From education to employment

Report illustrates disparity in funding between HE and FE

A new report illustrating the “Cinderella” status of Further Education colleges and students has led to MPs calling for a series of major changes to funding, access and childcare in the FE sector.

Mind the Gap: Funding adults in Further and Higher Education” is the title of the report by the National Skills Forum – part of Policy Connect, which brings the skills sector and MPs together to help create effective public policy.

The report shows that financial support for adults in HE is far more substantial than those in FE, specifically:

  • Adult students in FE have significantly less access to loans than university students
  • University students obtain greater funding for childcare than those in FE
  • Disabled students in FE have less control over their financial support than those in HE

The report, which was based on the work of Mick Fletcher, an education expert and author of “Funding adults in FE and HE”, canvassed the views of 21 MPs and peers, across all parties.

The MPs support the creation of a single financial support system for adult learners across FE and HE and call for more flexibility in the FE sector funding system.

“While any threat to HE funding makes the headlines undergraduates are treated far more generously than young adults in FE. Undergraduates can access soft loans and have an increasingly generous system of maintenance support compared to adults in FE,” explains Mick Fletcher. “Unlike universities, colleges are also treated in Government policy less and less as valued partners and more and more as mere “delivery agents” spurred on to greater efforts by increased financial instability. The difference in treatment is morally and practically indefensible”.

Gordon Marsden MP is Chair of the Associate Parliamentary Skills Group, which works with the National Skills Forum, said: “With the increasing overlap between FE and HE, we need a fresh look at the basis on which student support and need is assessed.”

“As my colleagues have stressed in the report, this should not be done on the basis of FE versus HE, it should be done on the basis of demand, social circumstances and targeted support for particular groups”.

Keith Brooker, Acting Director-General of City & Guilds who sponsored the report, says:

“The FE sector has often been described as the poor relation, but Mick’s paper demonstrates just how inequitably it is treated in comparison with its more affluent cousin. What is clear from this report is that some of our legislators were not aware of the extent of the different treatment meted out to those undertaking programmes in the different sectors.”

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