Why is transport an issue for colleges?
Simply put, transport should be an issue for colleges because without it, many of their students would not be able to get to college. Over the last year I’ve worked on transport issues and found that outside of London, and to a lesser extent Manchester, transport providers are largely left to their own devices. In Sheffield we’ve seen a 100% increase in the non-concessionary or statutory student fare in four years. The problem is, the bus companies set this fare and have never talked to students before or after increasing the fare and therefore have no idea of the huge impact a progressively increasing fare has had. We’ve seen that hard work and determination to figure out a complicated system of transport bodies and regulators and lobbying the companies can work - bus companies in Sheffield have agreed to freeze fares for the first time in four years. Although it may seem trivial, just like most things in education, high transport costs have a damaging effect on numerous other factors, such as attendance, retention, enrolment, grades and success rates. Without good quality, affordable transport many students will not be able to even get into college, their workplace or placement, so it isn’t just bad news for the college, it’s bad news for their students. But possibly the worst lot has been reserved for apprentices. Although for many people apprenticeships open doors which would have otherwise been closed to them, we need to talk about the issues surrounding apprentices, especially transport. With a minimum wage currently of £2.73 and an average weekly cost of £24 for transport, it wasn’t surprising to me to learn that an ‘apprentice would need to start work at 9am on Monday, work all day and then again on Tuesday until 10:18 just to earn enough to pay for travel.’ Colleges need to stand up with their Students’ Unions and say enough is enough; colleges need to stand with the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the National Union of Students (NUS) and demand an affordable transport system for students because things cannot continue the way they are without serious implications for colleges and more importantly individual students. Ben Walters is the President of Sheffield College Students’ Union.  National Society of Apprentices Travel Research. National Society of Apprentices, 2014.