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“Adult education in England will cease to exist by 2020”

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Adult education in England will no longer exists by 2020 if the government continues its current austerity measures, hundreds of colleges have warned.

The Association of Colleges says nearly 200,000 adult education places will go out of business next year, with courses for health, public services and care, and information and communication technology (ICT) to be hit the hardest.

The colleges say if budget cuts continue at the current rate, "there will no longer be an adult education system remaining to support students aged 19 and over".

The warning follows government plans to slash funding for adult education by 24 per cent for the 2015-16 academic year.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) is the national representative body for 336 institutions in England, including general further education, sixth-form, tertiary and land-based colleges.

The AoC's chief executive, Martin Doel, said adult education and training in England is too important to be lost. Doel continued to say that funding cuts "could mean an end to the vital courses that provide skilled employees for the workforce, such as nurses and social care workers".

"The potential loss of provision threatens the future prospects of the millions of people who may need to retrain as they continue to work beyond retirement age, as well as unemployed people who need support to train for a new role.”

Shadia Edwards-Dashti, who is the student representative for the Stop the War coalition, believes that government cuts in the education sector are unnecessary when London could simply bring down its costs by tweaking its foreign policy:

“Government treats education as an instrument of governmental revenue, to be honest, and they treat education as a form of profit. The monopoly of our young people’s minds today has made education a business. The cuts to education…actually widen the class gap. These cuts are dividing the society into 2 categories eventually which are those who can pay for education and those you who cannot...The government sees no difficulty in finding the fund to wage war. War in their minds is essential and the (so called) war on terrorism has cost the British government 4 billion pounds a year. Now, what is essential about that war?” said Shadia Edwards-Dashti.

The Association’s concerns were echoed by others. Professor Ewart Keep, from Oxford University's department of education, says the AoC's analysis is "alarming, but realistic".

Professor Keep went on to say "the latest reductions raise the prospect of provision reaching a tipping point, from which subsequent recovery could be very difficult”.

"Cumulative cuts of this magnitude are extremely difficult to absorb, and mean that those colleges and other providers who have a strong focus on adult learners may either go out of business or be forced to re-focus their attention on younger, pre-19 students".

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) said England was facing "a skills crisis". The University and College Union’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, also supported the Association’s analysis:

"These cuts are a devastating blow to colleges and risk decimating further education. Slashing budgets this harshly could be the final nail in the coffin for many of the courses that help people get back to work”.


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