Let battle commence
Today is officially the day Parliament dissolves – it’s when MPs become candidates and the election campaign starts in earnest. I realise this is hard to believe. There has been so much talk about the election over the past months that you’ll be forgiven for thinking that the campaign started long ago. The next six weeks of purdah are going to be an interesting time. The only guarantee we have is that there will be no new announcements from Government. Candidates on the campaign trail, however, will be far from quiet. So from a college perspective, what can we actually expect? Apprenticeships: This has been one of the buzz words for politicians from all parties lately, with each pledging more and more places. While it’s great that apprenticeships are getting the publicity they deserve, we will be working hard to ensure that candidates are aware there are other options out there, and that quality is more important than quantity. One thing we can be sure of is that apprenticeships are here to stay Funding: Public spending is clearly going to be a big topic for the election, especially for colleges. At the moment, there is no ringfence for 16-18 funding, adult skills funding has been cut to the brink of extinction. We’re keeping up our pressure to ask for a once in a generation review of the education budget, as we feel this is critical for the future to ensure fairness for our students. Immigration: With the rise of UKIP, there is even more pressure on the main political parties, particularly the Conservatives, to make big promises on immigration. The problem we have with this debate is that international students at our colleges are at risk of being affected by future legislation. Students from across the world come to our colleges to learn new skills. The benefits of these programmes are immeasurable. Apart from the obvious advantage to the student, there are positives for local students, who gain the opportunity to learn alongside international colleagues and understand different cultures, as well as the impact they have on the local economy of the college as a whole. Here at AoC, we will continue to push our manifesto, highlighting what we think is needed to help colleges and students succeed. The next six weeks will be very interesting. At the moment, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the result will be.