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UCU calls for reversal of adult education funding 'stealth cuts'

25 March 2021 | last updated: 26 March 2021

UCU has written to the Westminster government to raise concerns about the Education and Skills Funding Agency's (ESFA) decision to set the threshold rate for adult education 'under-delivery' at 90%, which could see colleges lose tens of millions in funding, and to call on the government to reverse the decision.

UCU said ESFA's decision was wholly unnecessary and would damage adult education provision precisely when it is most needed. The union said that colleges are already underfunded, and should not be subject to clawbacks from the government at the best of times, but that this move is inexcusable during a pandemic. UCU urged skills minister Gillian Keegan to intervene to reverse ESFA's decision and significantly lower the threshold, which was set at 68% last year.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'This decision will deliver little in savings for ESFA, while further squeezing an area of provision that is absolutely central to recovering from the pandemic, closing the post-Brexit skills gap, and tackling climate change by building a green economy. Adult education is not only crucial in terms of retraining for economic recovery and transition, but important for mental health and wellbeing in society more widely. This is the very worst time to making any form of cuts to further and adult education provision.

'Funding for adult education, as for further education more widely, needs to be massively increased on a stable, long-term basis. In the immediate absence of this support, however, the decision to lower the adult education budget threshold rate to 68% last year was sensible.

'If the government were serious about the value of our colleges, 'building back better' after the pandemic, and reskilling the workforce for the jobs of the future, it would be committing to the necessary long-term investment, not making stealth cuts.'

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