With health spending and foreign aid ring-fenced, it seems that every other government department is continuing to bear the brunt of the Coalition’s austerity programme and this includes education. The latest Autumn Statement by the Chancellor included a
£150 million cut in the sum allocated to educating 18 year olds. The reason this age group has been targeted is that they should already have had 2 years’ education since their 16th birthday.
Education marketing professionals are obviously concerned about how this will affect budgets and what impact the latest round of education cuts by the government have on 18 year olds and their future prospects.
It would appear that most 18 year olds in colleges are there because of deprived circumstances although some would argue that, in many cases, these were self-inflicted. Many students go back to college to learn the basics like English and Maths after not making an appropriate effort when they were at school. Often this was because they came from deprived homes which were not conducive to a sound education while others were the victims of bullying. Quite obviously there is a small percentage who simply fooled around without taking their future employment prospects seriously.
The worst affected colleges will probably be those with a high proportion of immigrants in their catchment areas since 18 year olds in this category tend to enrol to learn English or to obtain qualifications that are recognised in the UK. In geographical terms this means that London, the South East and the North West will be worst affected.
Across the board, the reduction in funding will hit general colleges of further education the hardest with an average funding cut of 3% compared to 1.2% for sixth form colleges. One FE college in Essex is incensed, pointing out that the policy runs contrary to the government’s stated aim of delivering youngsters into the jobs market with the skills that employers are demanding. The college highlights the fact that two thirds of its 18 year old students study on Advanced Level Technician programmes for employment as Forensic Science Laboratory Technicians; Software, Civil and Design Engineers; Master Plumbers & Electricians; ICT Technicians; trainee midwives; and nurses.
Furthermore, this college (Barking and Dagenham) claims that the cuts will impact on over 700 of its 18-year-old studentsof whom 94% are from the index of deprivation classified postcodes. What is more, the cuts will impact on those young people who had lower attainment at age 16 and therefore need three years to complete their training at Level 3, as well as those who had been pigeon-holed into an A Level programme in sixth form, only to find that it cannot lead to work.
It is the final sentence that needs to be taken on board by education marketing teams since it is quite clear that too many students going back to college are doing so because career officers and other influential parties have not been steering students in the right direction earlier on. Everyone involved in planning courses and the marketing thereof needs to focus on their relevance to the jobs market and the future prospects for employment that ensue. This will almost certainly boost application and enrolment numbers.