Page last updated at 20:25 GMT, Wednesday, 1 April 2009 21:25 UK

College warning over 74 job cuts

Sixth-form students
Coleg Gwent has six campuses across south Wales

A further education college in south Wales has predicted it will have to make 74 redundancies because of Welsh Assembly Government funding cuts.

Coleg Gwent, which has six campuses in Newport, Monmouthshire and Blaenau Gwent, also said it would have to close its education centre in Abergavenny.

Staff will enter a 90 day consultation period on the proposed cuts.

The announcement came as 300 lecturers and students protested at the Senedd against further education funding cuts.

The college said the cuts were necessary to secure its long-term future and the education of its 35,000 learners.

It said it had been forced to find savings of up to £3.5m because of a 7.43% cut for further education in Wales in 2009/10 and a standstill position the previous year.

The college said it was also required to give its lecturers a 2.3% pay increase to match that awarded to school teachers.

These cuts will jeopardise Welsh colleges' ability to fulfil their fundamental responsibility to provide education
Howard Burton, principal of Coleg Gwent

Measures to save money include the closure of the Hill Education and Conference Centre in Abergavenny at the beginning of September 2009.

A country house on the outskirts of Abergavenny, the centre can host conferences and is a licensed wedding venue. Its education provision includes IT, horticulture, adult learning classes and residential courses.

It is also the base for the Regional Welsh for Adults Centre, which would be relocated to Newport under the proposals.

All further education courses at the centre would also be relocated to other campuses.

Local councillor Douglas Edwards said the closure of the centre would be a serious loss to the local community.

"As far as Abergavenny is concerned, it is right on our doorstep. We have a problem, an element of unemployment in the area and it caters for that type of thing," he said.

"The weekend courses are quite famous and it brings a business knock on for the rest of the town."

'Devastating'

The funding cuts will mean that other courses at Usk, Newport and Ebbw Vale will also have to close at the end of this academic year in July, said Coleg Gwent.

A-level courses will also be relocated from the college's Pontypool campus to Crosskeys.

Howard Burton, principal of Coleg Gwent, said: "The cuts made by the Welsh Assembly Government have been nothing short of devastating.

"We expected an additional £2.7m to our budget for 2009/10, instead we are facing a £300,000 cut because of the 7.43% cut for all post-16 education in Wales."

"Coleg Gwent is a well-managed organisation which operated at a modest surplus in the last full academic year.

"Over the last year we have operated within budget and delivered some of the best student results in Wales - many of our A-level and vocational courses have a 100% pass rate."

The college said it wanted to minimise the number of compulsory redundancies it would make and had put in place a voluntary scheme and early retirement option.

Mr Burton said it was "extremely frustrating" some highly skilled teaching and support staff could lose their jobs.

"These cuts will jeopardise Welsh colleges' ability to fulfil their fundamental responsibility to provide education, and at a time when maintaining skills is more important than it ever has been," he added.

The proposed cuts at Coleg Gwent follow protests at the Welsh assembly in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday.

The University and College Union (UCU) called on the assembly government to use cash "reserves" to avoid hundreds of job losses and cuts to courses.



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