The Right Honourable Sir Vince Cable MP praised the work of further education colleges and their valuable role in the community as he visited students at the Hinckley campus of North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College yesterday.
As well as meeting students from the creative arts, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, and former secretary for state for business, innovation and skills, discussed the impact of funding reductions for colleges.
Marion Plant, OBE FCGI, Principal and Chief Executive said, “We were delighted to welcome Sir Vince Cable to the campus this afternoon so that he could hear first-hand from our students about their experiences and career plans. I was pleased with his support for the issues I raised around the difficulties the sector has been facing in terms of declining government investment.
“Colleges educate the majority of 16-18-year olds; 40 per cent more continue their education in colleges than schools. Despite this, colleges have had to deal with an average funding cut of 30% over the last ten years whilst at the same time, costs have increased dramatically. The financial pressures on colleges continue to increase at a time when the total number of students is rising, and it is harder to recruit and retain teachers.
“Public spending on education is expected to fall below 4 per cent of GDP by 2022, down from 4.6 per cent in 2015. Colleges have borne the brunt of this decline compared with other parts of the education system with FE budgets the only ones to have been subject to year-on-year cuts since 2010. This has resulted in an eight per cent overall reduction for students aged 16 to 18, and massive 62 per cent drop for adults.
“Further education colleges are an essential part of England’s education system. Whether it’s through top-class technical education, basic skills or lifelong learning, colleges help people of all ages and backgrounds to make the most of their talents and ambitions. I am pleased that Sir Vince pledged his personal support, and the support of the Liberal Democrats, for our sector which provides life chances for so many individuals.”
Sir Vince was welcomed to the College by an inspirational choral medley from performing arts students as part of his visit to Leicestershire. He has long been an advocate for the further education sector and has previously pledged his support for lifelong learning by calling for investment in adult education.
Accompanied by Cllr David Bill, MBE from Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council, and Michael Mullaney, the Liberal Democrat’s prospective parliamentary candidate, Sir Vince included the College in his busy itinerary to engage with and encourage young people in Hinckley, and to discuss the transformative role of further education colleges within communities.
As part of his visit, Sir Vince was quizzed by journalism students on how he intended to vote on the EU withdrawal agreement, and what the Liberal Democrats would have to offer young people voting for the first tine in the next general election. The visit was filmed by a team of digital video production students, fresh from their Gold medal-winning performance at WorldSkills UK LIVE last month.
Thanking Sir Vince for his visit, Marion Plant said, “It has been a fantastic opportunity for our students to showcase their talents, and to tell their stories and explain how their college experience is helping them to prepare solid foundations for successful future working lives.
“We hope that his visit to the College has helped Sir Vince to understand how well students at all levels can develop with the support of a strong college community and to see the enormous positive impact that further education has on the young people of Hinckley.”