CHANGES to the way that adult education is funded have forced one of Rotherham’s largest colleges to pull the plug on its courses.
Thomas Rotherham College currently caters for 150 adults—alongside 1,500 16-to-18-year-olds—who take courses in subjects including maths, English, IT and childcare.
But the coalition Government has announced that it is to reduce funding to colleges for adult education and phase out grant funding for some courses for over 25s.
This week, TRC principal Dr Richard Williams said that the college could simply not afford to keep adult education going with a projected deficit of £65,000 for the year ahead.
He said: “It’s a decision that has been taken with regret, but because it is no longer financially viable for us to run adult courses in the light of continued cuts.
“We will be taking students currently enrolled on courses through to the end of those courses, even if that end date is after July but we will be ending Government-funded provision at the college once these students have completed.
“It is not the case that students will have to transfer elsewhere to complete their current courses.
“The college may continue to offer some evening classes, a decision on this will be announced shortly.
“We are all very sorry to lose this provision. It is very disappointing for people wanting to study at the college and for the college as a whole.”
The college’s on-site adult education centre has six full-time members of staff.
Dr Williams said that some staff would be needed to see through students on existing courses but added: “We will do what we can to find alternative posts within the college but there will be job losses.”
He said that the college had been operating courses at a deficit over the last few years as the Government continued to reduce funding.
He added: “This is all about current government priorities and the Government believes that over 25s should be funding their own learning.
“I am concerned that this will affect adults’ ability to get back into work and limit their opportunities.
“Around seven years ago, the college did have a large adult education provision but over the years this has got smaller and smaller due to Government funding cuts.
“If we were to continue we’d be operating at a deficit of £65,000 for next year and considerably more looking forward to 2012 caused by administration costs, staffing costs and rate changes.”
The principal said that the college had hoped that the situation would improve.
“We had hoped that with our streamlined budget we may have seen a revival in adult education,” he said.
“But the latest changes have put an end to that.
“Colleges that offer bigger provision may still be able to work the changes into their budgets.
“We just cannot afford to do that.”
Students affected by the changes have been sent a letter alerting them to the news.
Elsa Stancliffe (34), of Bramley, said: “I was a bit annoyed when I got the letter but it does say that we will be able to complete the course.
“Closing the adult education centre at one of the biggest colleges in Rotherham is a sign of the times.
“The Government should be protecting adult education not cutting it. There are a lot of people out of work who need extra training to either change careers or get back into employment.”