Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Death Knell for Post-16 Education in Folkestone?

Today the Folkestone Herald has announced that UCF is to lose many of its students after the Governors of CCUC decided a "change of direction" was in order. CCUC has attempted to placate fears by telling us that a number of K College courses will be moving to the UCF site in a joint venture. I can't, however, help but note that a week ago the Herald highlighted that over 140 jobs are to go as part of a major shake-up at K College.

K College's predecessor in Folkestone, South Kent College, had it rough before the merger with West Kent a couple of years back. They suffered regular changes of Principal, falling student numbers, hammerings by OFSTED and a black hole in their finances. They weren't helped by moves which made an even playing field in terms of funding; theirs having been traditionally higher per student due to historical course weighting and having multiple sites.

With this chequered history, the massive cuts in staff they are planning and the fact that lecturer's pay at the College is higher than at other local colleges, such as Canterbury College, it is difficult to see how they can continue to make a multiple campus model work without some kind of collaboration. This should therefore be a potentially positive move for K College in terms of keeping a provision in the town of Folkestone.

There is, however, a large elephant in the room. If K College is contracting in terms of staffing and yet moving courses to the UCF campus, what happens to their main campus in the town? Is this move in fact the first part of a plan to close their main campus and even perhaps sell the site? If so, will this be the death knell for significant levels of post-16 education in Folkestone? These, I think, are the questions Shepway District Council and Kent County Council should be asking when considering supporting or even facilitating the transferring of FE courses to UCF.

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