Unions oppose cuts-induced college merger plan

Unions oppose college merger. Photo: Cat Weiner

Lewisham College could be merged with Lambeth College in response to government cuts to further education funding.

In the face of union opposition, the boards of governors from both colleges, have agreed to commission a formal review, which will begin in January 2011, to consider joining the institutions.

They believe that sharing services will be the best way of ensuring that local communities receive the best education.

Maxine Room, principal at Lewisham College, said: “The proposal for merging our two colleges stems from our determination to continue to deliver high quality teaching and learning in the face of an increasingly difficult financial environment.  We need to look for innovative ways of working to continue to secure the successful futures of our learners.

“The two colleges have the same values and beliefs – we believe that the success of the learners and ultimately the positive impact they have within the locality is paramount,” she added.

Members from Unison and the UCU have argued against the merger, saying that the budget driven proposals are badly planned.

They passed a joint motion saying: “The welfare of staff and the educational delivery to students at both colleges must be paramount in the minds of both college managements when considering this merger”.

Currently, Lewisham College, located on Lewisham Way, has an annual budget of around £38m for 13,600 students.  In May, Chancellor George Osbourne announced that £50m would be invested in colleges. However, following the Comprehensive Spending Review in October it was announced that that the further education budget would be reduced by 25 per cent in the next four to five years.

Further education will also be affected by the government’s decision to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) given to 16-18 year olds. Many fear that cutting EMA will deter students from staying in education. At present, 3,282 students claim EMA in Lewisham, while 3,175 students claim it in Lambeth.

The decision on the EMA  sparked anger across the boroughs, for previous ELL coverage of EMA see here.

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