As an FE lecturer I know that one of the unsung achievements of the FE sector is that many students start at FE college and then go on to read for a university degree. The majority of young people in FE who progress to university do so through the BTEC and Access pathways, whilst other FE students progress via A levels or studying ESOL or Adult Basic Education. It’s great when we meet a former student who is now a university graduate. We have helped them get started on a long educational journey.
The Green Paper talks about the importance of encouraging social mobility. Shame then that the Government has imposed so many cuts on the FE sector, when we have been supporting social mobility for decades.
Many of our students need to study locally. They cannot afford to live away from home. They need to keep working part-time while studying full-time. Not all students can be geographically mobile. Many young people benefit from going away from home to study at university, but not everyone can afford to do this, especially with no grants and high tuition fees.
Some students who go to university via the FE route are local mature students with families and part-time jobs. They need local educational provision and to study at their local college and local university.
One of the worrying features of the Green Paper on Higher Education is that it contemplates Higher Education Providers leaving the HE sector. What does it mean for students if their course or even their university closes? The Green Paper seems to assume they will just relocate and study in another city. Some students will have the financial means, social contacts and self-confidence to do this. What about those who cannot? Will their degree studies be ended halfway through their course?
Moreover the Green Paper contemplates a massive increase in the number of private for-profit-profit providers of Higher Education. Will these providers provide for the needs of working class students?