New Chancellor urged to use colleges to level up towns and communities

14 Feb 2020

The newly appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, must use the long-awaited budget to make colleges the catalyst for change – especially in the country’s left-behind towns and coastal communities.

Colleges hold the key to answering some of the most pressing questions and challenges facing the country today – including how to boost productivity and ensure the country has the skilled workforce necessary to maintain economic success. With the government’s renewed focus on ‘levelling up’, the Association of Colleges is calling on the new Chancellor to focus on technical and vocational education to make sure that every person, in every community has the skills and opportunities they need to get on – including in many of the government’s newly won constituencies behind the so-called ‘red wall’.

This includes raising funding ratesdelivering on the Conservative Party’s manifesto promise of £1.8 billion in college capital funding, extending the pupil premium to 16-18 year olds, and making sure that the apprenticeship system is working for those who need it most. The new Chancellor should also invest the Shared Prosperity Fund and National Skills Fund in colleges to deliver in areas with low economic activity and high unemployment.

The sector body is also calling on HM Treasury to implement the Post 18 Review recommendations.

Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes said:

Colleges already do so much but they could do so much more with the right investment. The upcoming budget gives the new Chancellor an early and great opportunity to develop a world class technical and vocational education system that allows us to continue to compete on a global scale. Colleges are ready to support the skills needs of major infrastructure projects such as HS2, the quest for carbon net zero, the NHS and care services and many other sector needs, but can only do that with the right investment.

After a decade of neglect, the new Chancellor now has the chance to maximise the opportunities for everyone to achieve their potential and ensure no one is left behind. Proper investment in technical education and the skills system will help boost productivity, support young people and adults to get on in work and life and help employers to get the skilled people they need. To achieve that, this budget must deliver on our recommendations and invest in colleges.”

AoC returned a detailed budget submission to HM Treasury on 7 February 2020. The full document is available here.