Job losses on cards as Hastings college faces funding cut

27/4/11- Sussex Coast College, Hastings
27/4/11- Sussex Coast College, Hastings

SCORES of jobs are at risk at Sussex Coast College Hastings as it faces a drastic cut in money from the Government.

Bosses at the college in Station Plaza said the future of 50 posts was uncertain but in reality the number would be equivalent to 15 full-time positions.

Janak Patel, the college’s principal, said it was facing a 25 per cent cut in funding from Whitehall over the next three years.

It currently gets £20 million each year but from September it will only be £15 million.

The college has also suffered due to the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) which paid up to £30 a week to students from poor backgrounds to help towards travelling to college and so on.

It also has to pay back a £8.5 million loan.

Mr Patel said: “The building at Station Plaza was designed to accommodate more growth and funding was increasing. Now we have to deal with more students but each student is generating less income for us.

“I can’t let Hastings down by offering less of a curriculum, as we are the 19th most deprived town in the country. A lot of research was put in when we built the college to take into account the town’s needs.

“We are talking about 50 jobs at risk but in terms of actual redundancies it’s actually hours equivalent to 15 full-time posts. Some of the 15 affected will be moving from one contract to another and some will job share.

“It’s important not to lose the skills we have developed. The last thing I want is to lose a skilled teacher. We have to make these cuts and my ambition is to minimise redundancies.

“We are not cutting the provision but reducing the number of teaching hours. We need to survive for a number of years but I think growth will come back again.

“This is the first time in my career that there has been a cut in funding for further education in a time of recession.”

Mr Patel said the scrapping of the EMA had discouraged students from thinking about college.

He said Sussex Coast College Hastings, which has more than 5,000 students, had seen a 10 per cent drop in applications for September, compared to last year. The college is, therefore, having to look for new ideas to generate more income and attract more students.

Mr Patel is developing a plan with major retailers so they can set up shop in the ground-floor of the college. Students will be able to work at various outlets there and gain valuable work experience.

He said: “My plan is to have a social enterprise in each vocational area, such as a nursery. Our gym, for instance, is managed by our students. We are investing £2 million in this commercial strategy over the next two to three years.”

Mr Patel said the college is planning to set up a charity to raise money for poorer students to help them complete their courses. Cash would go towards bus passes and food vouchers, for example, he added.

The Observer tried to contact the college’s representative from the University and College Union, but no one was available for comment.