From education to employment

MPs call for action on cost-of-living crisis for FE students

students putting their hand in the middle

The APPG for Students today publishes the second report of its inquiry launched in January into the financial position of further education students, building on its previous report on higher education. This follows extensive consultation with further education colleges, students, and sector experts.

The report outlines some of the consequences of the cost-of-living crisis on further education students, exacerbated by a decade of funding cuts in the further education sector. Findings include a negative impact on access to education and training for disadvantaged groups as well as reports of increased safeguarding issues such as exploitation and abuse, domestic violence, and mental health disclosures.

Evidence shows many further education students are missing classes and working excessive hours to support their families, prioritizing opportunities in the Labour market over longer-term education and training goals. Consequently, colleges outlined that they are seeing indications of a longer-term student retention crisis in further education.

APPG for Students Chair Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, commented:  

“The cost-of-living crisis is clearly hitting many people hard and those on lowest incomes hardest. Further education should provide an opportunity for skills development and social mobility, however many of the young people and adults who might benefit most from further education and training are now – because of the cost-of-living crisis – less likely to take up opportunities to study, attend courses and achieve their potential.

At an individual level students may be less likely to secure stable employment, progress in work and increase their incomes, but at a national level the impact of the cost-of-living crisis means we will not see the desired economic growth and skills development at local, regional, and national levels which is critical to delivering the levelling-up policy agendas.

Our own research confirms the data from many other expert bodies. Recent financial pressures come on top of a decade of cuts to college budgets, meaning that there is no safety net of support for struggling students. These emerging issues will have longer-term consequences on both students and the further education sector, and particularly affect those already disadvantaged, undermining achievements in widening participation and access to tertiary education.

Our recommendations, prepared by a cross-party group, aim to tackle both the immediate crisis further education students face as well as the longer-term issues that are likely to impact not only a generation of students but on skills that are essential to the UK workforce. Given the consequences on mental health, career choices and access to education, addressing these issues in further education with targeted and localised interventions must be an essential part of any government response to students concerns during the cost-of-living crisis.”

The full report can be read here.

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