Courses for special needs, engineering, motor vehicle training will be cut back as well as opening hours. Significantly, full-time A-level and AS-level courses are to go from September. The consultation period is a complete farce as it ends on the 23rd August – seven days before the start of the academic year.
The same diet of cuts can be seen throughout the further & higher education system in Northern Ireland. In February a report carried on behalf of Belfast Metropolitan College recommended slashing jobs and cutting community courses that don’t have a qualification associated with them. A-level and AS-level courses have been slowly suffocated. The intention is to eventually scrap them altogether.
These cuts are a direct result of the Assemblies 3% “efficiency savings” and January’s announcement of additional cuts of £19.7million to the Department of Employment and Learning which were unanimously agreed by the politicians in the Executive.
Meanwhile the elitist Russell Group of Universities, which includes Queen’s University Belfast, has proposed hiking interest rates on student loans. This is just another way of increasing tuition fees. This in effect will cut out even more working class people from attending university. With no access to education, growing numbers of young people have nowhere to go but join the growing dole queues.
Officially, youth unemployment now stands at 16%. However this doesn’t take into account 105,000 young people labelled as “economically inactive”. Real youth unemployment is actually closer to 23%!
School & college strikes against cuts
The UCU (lecturers and teachers union) and NIPSA (union representing non-teaching staff) have condemned the cuts. However, this is not enough. A real fight back is needed that links up school, college and university students with teachers and staff under threat in the colleges.
A one-day strike of school and colleges involving both workers and students would lay the basis for a real defence of our education system. With nearly a quarter of young people out of work, the Assembly’s cuts in education and training is preparing the ground for a revolt. Young people must get organised to defend their education and fight for decent jobs and a future. Young people have taken to the streets in mass demonstrations and occupations recently in Greece, Germany, Austria, France and Spain and have shown that youth are not powerless if organised. It is also necessary to link the attacks on education to the attacks on the rest of the working class and build a mass movement against the capitalist system which is ultimately responsible for mass unemployment. The fight for a real future is a fight for a socialist world.