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Lecturers' union slams college privatisation plan to 'rip-off' public assets

23 January 2007 | last updated: 14 December 2015

At a national TUC rally to 'speak up for public services' on Tuesday 23 January, UCU, which represents lecturing staff in further education (FE) colleges, will condemn suggestions that some successful, large FE colleges should become totally privatised.

The privatisation idea was put forward by Ioan Morgan, the chairman of a group of 22 large and high performing colleges.The '157 group' takes its name from paragraph 157 of the Foster report into FE which advocated a greater role for the principals of successful colleges in championing the reputation of further education.

Barry Lovejoy, head of further education at UCU will say: 'Sadly, the recent Leitch report into further education defined education and training as just another commodity. Ioan Morgan's proposal takes advantage of this view, and it may enable someone to make a fast buck from asset stripping colleges.

'How cheeky can he get? These colleges have received public money and support for years. If colleges are privatised, will the new owners be paying a market price repaying over 100 years of public investment? College privatisation is a recipe for another rip-off of the public purse. It would be a complete betrayal by colleges of the local communities and people they are supposed to serve. It would also betray staff who want to serve the public, not shareholders.

'If the status of further education needs boosting, we need greater national efforts to communicate its many successes, and greater support for colleges with difficulties, not Ioan Morgan's elitist response which does nothing to help the sector overall.

'Mr Morgan should remember that "shares can go down as well as up" and if colleges go private there won't be a public safety net waiting to catch them when they fail. UCU's concern is who would rescue the students and communities?

'UCU is absolutely committed to public service values and to keeping FE in the public sector and we applaud the TUC's national lobby to defend public services. We shall fight any attempt to sell off colleges for a song.'