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Colleges overlooked by Chancellor in Budget

15 March 2023

Jeremy Hunt Parliament

Responding to the Chancellor's Budget, David Hughes, the Association of Colleges chief executive said: “Once again college leaders will be rightly dismayed that the sector has been overlooked by the Chancellor and are wondering why Jeremy Hunt continues to ignore the central role colleges play in delivering the enterprising, highly skilled, high-growth country he wants to see.

“While it is right that the early years sector will get a £288m uplift by 2023-24, it is plainly wrong that colleges get nothing. I wrote to the Education Secretary last month with a modest ask for £400m in urgent funding to support colleges to be able to pay their heating bills and to pay fair and competitive salaries to college teachers and support staff, the same need as in early years settings.

"With no funding forthcoming from Government, colleges will be eyeing their budgets and working out how to make ends meet without shutting courses or campuses which are still needed but no longer affordable. All these decisions mean that Mr Hunt’s four Es are doomed to failure.

“Colleges give people the skills they need to do the jobs our labour market is crying out for. Mr Hunt paints a picture of a bright future full of technological achievement but without skilled people getting the education and training they need now, and in the future, it will remain a fantasy. Why give tax relief for businesses to buy new technology without supporting people to get the skills they need to operate it?

“We are left hoping that Sir Michael Barber has recognised – in his work advising the Chancellor and the Education Secretary – this country cannot continue to have a world-class technical education and skills system without properly funding it. The past 12 years have witnessed a decimation in funding for education and skills for 16 to 18-year-olds and adults. There are now insufficient places available and those which remain are inadequately funded. Unless and until this is rectified, employers will continue to find it impossible to recruit the skilled people they need.

“Further devolution in the West Midlands and Greater Manchester is a positive step to help them join up services but their ability to make a difference will be constrained by available funds. On a rare positive note, it is good to see that £11.5m has been set aside to support 10,000 Ukrainian nationals to access intensive English language courses and employment support, which colleges will play an important role in delivering.”

Notes to editors

A link to the letter sent to the education secretary from David Hughes is here.