Skip to main content

Whatever the future holds, colleges and students must be supported

24 June 2016

The country has voted, the results are in and Britain has decided to leave the European Union in yesterday’s referendum. This has led to David Cameron resigning as Prime Minister. The only thing that is clear from today’s announcements is that we are all facing uncertainty. Leaving the EU will not be quick. It will be a long, drawn out process with lots of negotiations. This is particularly true as we don’t currently know who will be the Prime Minister who will lead those discussions and it will be several months until the Conservative Party leadership contest is completed. Due to the purdah period, we have been waiting for a raft of reports and announcements from the Government on a number of skills and education issues, including the long awaited Sainsbury review into technical and professional education. Today’s results mean that these could be delayed or even scrapped altogether. Beyond this, we can already see that the result has had an immediate impact on the economic markets. Only time will tell how long this will last and what impact it could have. This, again, leads to more uncertainty. Colleges are currently planning their budgets for 2016-17 and any uncertainty over the future of their funding would clearly undermine their planning for the coming year, which is complicated enough already, with the introduction of different funding streams for levy and non-levy payers for apprenticeships, and with devolution of the adult education budget. The Government must make it clear as soon as possible how it will continue to fund education and training for the good of everyone with an emphasis on continuity in the near term. Specific areas of concern relate to the money pledged for training via the European Social Fund and the Skills Minister Nick Boles' comments that the apprenticeship levy may need to be postponed. One thing is clear, whatever the future holds for Britain once it formally leaves the EU, colleges and their students must be properly supported. They are, and must continue to be, at the forefront of providing education and training to ensure people are skilled and that companies stay competitive. Given the situation we now face, this has never been more important. Martin Doel is the Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges