College mergers could squeeze out students, warns NUS

The BBC is reporting warnings from the National Union of Students that thousands of students could be squeezed out of further education if plans for college closures and mergers go ahead.

A series of area reviews across England this year will decide how the sector will be restructured.

The government says it wants “fewer, often larger, more resilient and and efficient providers”.

But the NUS says merged colleges will mean more travel and expense for students, forcing many out.

The union’s FE Unplugged campaign calls on all further education students to make their opinions known to the review teams.

The union says it “is clear the mergers are the inevitable result of cut after cut to the FE sector, putting colleges financially on their knees”.

The implications for students are reduced choice of colleges and courses, staff job losses, bigger classes and longer, more expensive journeys, it adds.

In particular, merged colleges are likely to rationalise the subjects they offer. So some students could have to travel up to 20 miles to another town to study their chosen subjects, it warns.

Shakira Martin, NUS vice-president for higher education, said many students might abandon their education.

Those with young children or other caring responsibilities are likely to find the extra travel time and childcare cost impossible, said Ms Martin.

While in major cities such as London, some young men would be reluctant to travel to another borough or postcode for fear of gang violence, she added.

“What I am frustrated about is that this is really about the cuts being made to the sector.

“The government’s rhetoric is all about making bigger, stronger colleges but the everyday student doesn’t know what this means…so the campaign aims to raise awareness.’…

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Interesting observations about the potential impact of increased travel times.

What do you think – do you think mergers will result in fewer students continuing in further education?

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