Protest at education funding cuts

students Further cuts to colleges and universities are expected

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Students and staff at 100 UK colleges and universities are protesting against funding cuts in further, higher and adult education.

The protest, organised by a coalition of seven unions, comes on the eve of the government's first Budget.

England's colleges and universities already face £1.4bn in cuts, with four out of five making reductions.

The unions say these will have a grave impact on students' education and fear further cuts ahead.

The coalition of unions, including the University and College Union (UCU) and the National Union of Students (NUS), says thousands of jobs have already gone and that thousands more are at risk.

'Height of folly'

Up to 200,000 people could miss out on a university place next year and courses are being axed at 70% of further education colleges, it adds.

The coalition is calling on ministers to put education at the heart of Britain's economic recovery by investing in it and rejecting calls for university tuition fee rises.

The other unions involved in the action are Unite, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, the GMB, the Education Institute of Scotland and Unison.

ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said it would be the "height of folly" to further cut education funding when there were already 1m 16 to 25-year-olds out of work and not in education or training.

Aaron Porter, NUS president-elect, said: "The economy is still incredibly fragile and to deny the best education and skills to the professionals, innovators and entrepreneurs necessary to rebuild a strong economy in the coming years would prove to be a costly mistake."

And UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "You cannot make cuts without serious consequences. Where will the next generation of doctors, nurses, engineers and social workers come from if not universities?

"Who will provide the opportunity for unemployed people to retrain if not colleges?"

The protests include a meeting at Parliament and an early day motion calling on the government to protect educational provision.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "Times are very tough and so it is not possible to exclude higher education and further education from the need for public expenditure savings, but the government is committed to protecting front-line services for students and learners."

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