College Cuts : Cuts People

The last year has been full of economic doom and gloom, and even with fantastic successful campaigns such as “Reclaim your voice” and “Budget for bursaries”, HE(university) and FE(college) campaigns respectively. We have seen many cuts come to our FE sector and the introduction of £9000 fees in Scotland for RUK (rest of UK) students going to university.

I have ranted and raved about the fundamental flaws within the introduction of fees, and the risk we run with an unsustainable fee system, but there is worse issues here, it goes much further and the stark reality facing colleges in Scotland is shocking. Many people, ordinary students at Heriot Watt, who generally show no interest in politics or the bigger picture, where mortified when I spent the majority of last week explaining just how dire the situation is. Many do not realise exactly what is happening. Why? Because the media is paying very little attention to the college cuts.

Let me tell you the story I told the students at HW last week when petitioning for “Our Future Our Fight”. Imagine they announced massive cuts to Universities and would be forcing a massive merger between the 4 Edinburgh universities, THat Heriot watt, Edinburgh, QMU and Napier. They would then pull funding for students and they would have to fund themselves through uni (no loan or bursary) then after they mapped “provision of courses” see that there was duplication between HW and Edinburgh’s king’s buildings for Maths and it was more viable to shut down the HW campus, and send everyone to Kings buildings, I mean they are providing the same amount of places whats the problem?The problem is now students have lost a part of their campus, staff will have been lost, and now they have no funding they are paying for their own travel (which is arguably two buses back and forth everyday to kings buildings). Would this ever happen ?
NO. There would be NATIONAL OUTRAGE. Yet we change all of that story to colleges, and it is suddenly ok?

You just have to look at the huge kerfuffle caused at the thought of Abertay and Dundee university merging. It “just COULDN’T happen” and was “fundamentally wrong” the papers screamed, yet almost no thought, outrage or even publicity given to the idea of colleges in Edinburgh being merged together. The campus of which stretch the length and breadth of The city.

I hear from many people, “What is the problem, backroom cuts save money, why WOULDN’T they merge?”. Well anyone involved in FE would tell you that mergers in the long-term save money, but in the short-term to happen effectively, cost MILLIONS. There is a fundamental flaw when governments remove £70 million from the college budget, and then ask colleges to merge together (not just two but three In Edinburgh alone). The complications of interdepartmental restructuring, HR and finance merging and the cross co-ordination of courses, campuses, and classes takes TIME and MONEY. Something the colleges are being denied.

That dear readers is disgusting, I have been involved with NUS for less than a year an in that time I have come to the realisation that colleges arguably help more students than University, They are a vital life line in areas where people have nothing, failed by the state at highschool , college is not only another viable option for teens leaving highschool to gain extra skills, It gives PEOPLE SECOND CHANCES, people get off benefits and back into work, they become more employable and actually drives elf employment and business. My family benefited from my parents return to college achieving HND’s in hair dressing and proud graduates of Telford college. They are now in their 8th year of business of their own salon. I could not be prouder of not only my parents but the college in which gave my family a second chance, which further confirmed my views I wanted to pursue education.

At the times of financial crisis, and doom and gloom, as youth unemployment is hitting record numbers, we should be investing in education MORE than ever, in the future. There is no doubt that EVERYONE benefits from people pursuing HE and FE or in some cases both, college is a fundamental route into university for many students. It provides local tailored support to thousands of students. Support which is soon to disappear, everything colleges have struggled through in the last 10 years, on already squeezed budgets is phenomenal, massive strides have been made to get better student representation at college level, more full-time and part-time officers in colleges than ever before! But we as students must do more, we as members of NUS and as citizens can do more, better training and support for colleges is key, better communication and support on empowering colleges to deal with local issues, and drives on national issues will produce better results and more wins for students, It is a two-way street and without a doubt Colleges poured out in their thousands to support “Reclaim Your Voice” last year which was to ensuring free education for Scottish students at university as well as better student support a campaign we won, something I am monumentally proud to have been a part of.

I have to admit when I stated getting involved within this movement, and becoming a part of Heriot Watt’s exec I was completely clueless to everything college, and actually a lot of university issues. You learn as you work, and I still don’t understand everything, but I plan to keep working, fighting and getting involved, challenging people and talking to people who know more than me, Educating yourself on whats really going on is the only way in which we can better understand issues and then make informed decisions that will help everyone.

I get labelled a “lefty” that believes in “fluffy” ideas that arent “possible, sustainable or practical”. I think that is completely wrong, you can fund education in a sustainable way that is free and fair, you can protect and invest in colleges and finally I call myself an idealist, I believe what I believe not because of a party but because of who I am and where I come from, I see the benefits colleges bring to people everyday when I see my family, that is something that CANNOT be measured in monetary terms.

COLLEGES :”they don’t just help people, they help communities” and right now we are on a path to destroy them.

Please, get involved, take notice, don’t believe these cuts have to come, and think of the tragedy of what will happen if they do for generations to come, and the effect on the people at college RIGHT NOW.

YOU have the power, when we get behind something we can truly make a difference, I have seen it time and time again with my involvement with student politics. The politicians fear us more than you can imagine. Don’t stay silent.

You can sign the petition to protect colleges here, It takes only a moment and will email your local MSP’S automatically, you can also read a bit more about the “OFOF Campaign” and its aims.


~ by conorstrife on January 20, 2012.

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