College funding boost - statement from AoC

I’m sure that you will have seen the Chancellor’s announcement of an increase to the 16-19 education budget worth £400 million, and an upcoming statement about extending the TPS pension funding that you got for this year. Julian Gravatt, AoC’s Deputy Chief Executive, has written a useful and insightful piece, breaking down the numbers. It is well worth a read.

We all know that colleges have been overlooked and underfunded for far too long. One announcement does not change all of that, particularly because £400m is a long way short of reversing a decade of cuts, but it is a positive start. I am particularly pleased that alongside the announcement of funding, and the promise of more in next year’s full spending review, the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared further education a “people’s priority”. This is quite a turnaround and gives me optimism for the future.

With all these things, there is an element of timing and luck, but I am certain that our campaigning has had a major impact. With every college getting involved, and with simple messages we have cut through the neglect and raised the profile and understanding of why colleges matter.

There is great power in coming together, engaging with stakeholders, and seeking out new supporters. You have shared your stories positively and with pride and it is having real impact. You have also brought MPs, businesses, students and staff on board and showed them why your college is important to them and to others.

I wanted to offer my personal thanks and thanks from everybody at the Association of Colleges for all the hard work that you have put in, and for getting behind the #LoveOurColleges campaign. 

We must not, and will not, be complacent though. This is the first step on a much longer journey. There were huge areas that received no additional cash boost – including adult education budgets and apprenticeships, capital and support for students. As well as continuing to campaign for a sustainable increase to the 16-19 base rate, we need to make sure that the other vital parts of a college’s DNA are recognised.

There are two big moments coming up, Colleges Week 2019 (14 - 18 October) gives us the chance to keep making noise and to celebrate positively the impact of colleges, whilstAoC’s Annual Conference (19 - 20 November) is our opportunity to come together as a sector to take stock of the campaign so far, and plan what happens next. I hope to see as many of you as possible at both. 

As colleges come alive again with new and returning students and staff, it is the perfect moment to remember why this is so important – because colleges help people to transform their lives and to realise their ambitions and talents. That really matters to over 2 million students every year. And to our society as well as the economy.

Best wishes,

David Hughes
Chief Executive, Association of Colleges