Extra cash meant for universities should be given to struggling colleges, a new report has advised. Universities are sitting on reserves of £12.3 billion while, according to the National Audit Office, over a quarter of further education colleges are close to bankruptcy.
A repost by think-tank Policy Exchange says that more than £500 million should be taken from UK universities in the spending review and given to further education colleges to improve training for engineers, technicians and skilled construction workers.
The report also states that: “Public spending is currently skewed too much towards higher education to the detriment of further education.”
It also called for student loans and maintenance grants received by university students to be made available to further education students.The report finds that university funding has increased by 26 per cent since 2009-10.
In contrast, further education colleges have seen a significant drop in their revenue, with the adult skills budget having been cut by 24 per cent since 2009-10.
John Widdowson, the president of the association of colleges, said: “The outdated practice of highly funding our universities while continually taking money away from colleges is creating a surplus of graduates and not enough people with the qualifications required for technical and professional jobs, such as engineering and construction.”
On the other hand, Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said making cuts to higher education would be a “false economy” and that it should not be an “either-or” choice between further and higher education.
Jonathon Simmons, head of education at Policy Exchange, said higher education is “significantly better funded” than further education and added that universities have “substantial cash reserves” sitting in banks that could be better utilised.
He said: “The case for training and skills has never been more important ‒ to help create 3 million apprenticeships, fuel the Northern Powerhouse, boost social mobility and drive economic growth. As well as degrees, we need many more people with high-class technical and professional skills.That means a flourishing further education system.”