Students and staff join forces in campaign against college fees

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CAMPAIGNERS have written to Further Education Minister John Hayes asking for “urgent clarification” on whether plans to force people over the age of 24 to take out loans to study at college will result in 100,000 fewer students.

Official impact assessments suggest that the numbers of mature students in FE colleges could drop from 359,000 to 247,000 when a new loan system is introduced in 2013/14.

Members of the University and College Union (UCU), the National Union of Students, UNISON and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers have lobbied MPs on the social networking site Twitter yesterday as part of No to FE Fees day.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, said: “The Minister urgently needs to clarify just how damaging these controversial plans will be.

“At a time of record levels of unemployment it is simply not acceptable to slash opportunity for 100,000 people.

“These latest projections are quite staggering and highlight the huge damage further education loans would do to the sector. Colleges simply cannot absorb a 45 per cent cut in student numbers for people aged 24 and over.

“This would result in course closures, job losses and vastly diminished opportunities for adults and young people.”

A spokeswoman for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills said funding for FE was being focused on young people taking their first qualifications and those without basic skills – none of which will pay fees.

The loans for people 24 and over will ensure no up front costs and will only be repaid once people earn £21,000 or more with any outstanding balance written off after 30 years, she said.

The Government said the 100,000 figure was comparing the expected take-up of loans with students receiving grant funding before the comprehensive spending review.