Highbury College principal takes on government in cuts fightback

FIGHTBACK Stella Mbubaegbu
FIGHTBACK Stella Mbubaegbu
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A COLLEGE principal has criticised government funding cuts for damaging the quality of further education.

Stella Mbubaegbu says severe reductions in this year’s budget have given her no choice but to propose making more than 26 posts redundant at Highbury College in Cosham.

She says she must also cut the number of supervised teaching hours to just 80 per cent of the recommended amount. Without these cuts, she says Highbury would be left with a deficit of £1.7m.

Mrs Mbubaegbu said: ‘I regret any redundancies and cuts in teaching hours, but it is out of our control.

‘For me the question is, does the government want a Big Society or an Educated Society, which is why I am lobbying them to reconsider these damaging cuts.

‘I have grave concerns about the number of teaching hours going down and how it will affect our students and their success, because research shows the more time students spend in college the better the results.

‘We are doing everything we can to mitigate the effect of that, with major investment in online, independent learning. But I recognise that doesn’t suit everyone.’

Highbury College has suffered an 18 per cent reduction in its budget for 16 to 18-year-olds, who attract 62 per cent of its total grant.

The budget for adults has been slashed by two per cent, which means the average funding per adult student in 2011/12 will be seven per cent less than in 2010/11.

Mrs Mbubaegbu admits she was ‘surprised’ at the scale of cuts to her 16 to 18-year-olds allocation.

She said: ‘In Portsmouth we are desperately in need of skills and education. There are low levels of numeracy and literacy within our adult population and we have a skills deficit that businesses complain about. These cuts worry me in the sense of what the future holds for this city. There will be major setbacks if young people and adults feel college is not worth it.’

The consultation into proposed cuts closed on Friday.

COLLEGE LOOKS ABROAD

STELLA Mbubaegbu says she is seeking to increase the college’s international profile to fill the coffers after this year’s funding blow.

Overseas teacher training, apprenticeships for foreign students and a higher intake of non-EU students will come to greater prominence to off-set the crippling budget cuts.

Currently corporate schemes including sending college lecturers abroad to share their expertise, make up about 10 per cent of the college’s budget.

But Mrs Mbubaegbu says she is keen to see that percentage rise as financial support from the government decreases in future.