Jobs to go as axe falls at college

Highbury College

Highbury College

The hustings at Portsmouth College - from left:  David Carpenter (college governor), Gerald Vernon-Jackson (Lib Dems), Ian McCulloch (Green), Steve Fitzgerald (college teacher and chair), Stephen Morgan (Labour), Kevan Chippindall-Higgin (Ukip) and Penny Mordaunt (Cons)   Picture: Heather Eggelton

Parliamentary candidates grilled by students at Portsmouth College debate

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HIGHBURY College has proposed a wave of redundancies and drastic cuts in teaching hours to avoid a deficit of £1.7m next year.

Principal Stella Mbubaegbu sent an email to staff on Thursday announcing more than 26 posts were at risk of redundancy and warned of ‘further reductions and redundancies across both academic and business support departments’.

She also proposed cutting the average number of hours each student will get ‘guided learning’ in classrooms to 585 a year, which amounts to two and a half days a week. National guidelines suggest 704 hours.

Ms Mbubaegbu’s email claims massive reductions from the Young People’s Learning Agency which funds 16 to 19-year-olds at further education colleges are to blame.

While the college refused to tell The News its YPLA funding for the 2011/12 financial year, it is thought to be significantly less than last year’s amount of £10,929,327 for 2,183 students.

Ms Mbubagbu said the college had been successful in adding student numbers but the reduction in the funding rate per student was severe.

She wrote: ‘If we do nothing to mitigate the funding cuts, the college will return a deficit of £1.7 million in 2011/12.’

Diane Carter, media lecturer and University and College Union representative at Highbury College said: ‘When I read the email at 5pm on Thursday I was furious. The people whose jobs are on the line were given no warning.

‘Proposals for fewer guided hours, cutting support staff and academic redundancies further down the line are extremely worrying.

‘These will have a detrimental impact on the quality of teaching and student life at Highbury.

‘The irony is the college came out with a prospectus this year advertising 25 new A-levels but I just don’t see how they’re going to be able to offer any of them.’

She added: ‘Two years ago the college knew there was an over-reliance on the YPLA for funding and nothing was done to look into other sources of funding or to make any contingency plans. That was a terrible mistake.’

The jobs set for the axe include lecturers in hospitality and independent living and work skills, a lead librarian, a college counsellor and a student support mentor.

Some of these jobs, including the lead librarian, would not be replaced. Others, like the international administrator for business development and innovation, would be ‘absorbed into other positions.’

Ms Mbubaegbu was unavailable for comment but Shena Mitchell, head of PR, said: ‘During the period of consultation (which concludes on May 6) we will maintain our commitment to continuing to consider any viable alternatives to compulsory job losses.’

Pending the consultation, all redundancies will take effect before July 1.

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