Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Wednesday, 5 May 2010 14:28 UK

Colleges across the North East hold lunchtime protests

Protests have taken place outside colleges across the North East of England in support of lecturers striking in London over education cuts.

The University and College Union (UCU) said it opposed "massive" cuts which would lead to job losses.

Union members at 11 London colleges are taking part in the action.

Staff at Redcar and Cleveland College, Middlesbrough College, South Tyneside College and Bishop Auckland College held lunchtime protests.

There are fears hundreds of jobs could be lost across colleges in the North East should proposed cuts go ahead.

UCU regional official Jon Bryan said: "All the tough talk about education cuts has moved on and it is no longer just figures on paper.

People are losing their jobs and access to education is disappearing
UCU regional official Jon Bryan

"People are losing their jobs and access to education is disappearing. We believe in the power of education to make a real difference to people's lives and do not think we should be slashing funding at a time when more people than ever need access to education. "

Principal of Redcar and Cleveland College, Gary Groom, said the cuts had meant they had had to make "difficult decisions" and they "sympathised with staff".

He said they continued to work with trade unions to "achieve the very best outcome" and to avoid any potential industrial action.

Middlesbrough College principal John Hogg said there were no confirmed redundancies.

Lindsey Whiterod, principal and chief executive at South Tyneside College, said they were taking steps to ensure students did not suffer due to the planned protest.

Student support

She added: "We are currently in meaningful discussions about staffing issues with the unions and the staff identified at risk and suggestions to avoid redundancies are being investigated thoroughly."

Principal at Bishop Auckland College, Anne Isherwood, said: "The college understands the reason for this campaign and given the difficult circumstances created by a reduction in the adult funding the college is having to make significant savings which may result in job losses."

In a statement the college said 500 students had supported the protest against funding cuts.

The UCU organised the walk-out on Wednesday, saying universities faced funding cuts of nearly £1bn, while the further education sector has to make savings of £340m in the next academic year.

The strike action comes as universities face a period of funding cuts and record numbers of applications for courses.



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