Student leaders back bosses over Norwich college cuts

Steve DownesStudent leaders are standing alongside senior managers as Norwich City College faces up to drastic cuts over the next three years.The college's students' union held an emergency executive meeting yesterday and agreed to support proposals to protect courses by cutting jobs at all levels.Steve Downes

Student leaders are standing alongside senior managers as Norwich City College faces up to drastic cuts over the next three years.

The college's students' union held an emergency executive meeting yesterday and agreed to support proposals to protect courses by cutting jobs at all levels.

The rare move came as college principal Dick Palmer urged the government to recognise the need to invest in skills as he defended looming cuts.

Yesterday, the Evening News reported that up to 100 jobs could go as part of a package of �2.8m in savings to close a black hole in the Ipswich Road college's future finances.

There are fears that there may need to be greater cuts in future months, amid speculation that the government will further reduce funding.

The hole has emerged because of Whitehall funding cuts, plus the need to find �1.4m to maintain the ageing complex in the wake of the government's failure to deliver the �173m it promised for a new campus.

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Speaking a day after the bad news was revealed, Mr Palmer said the college 'really does matter to Norwich, Norfolk and beyond'.

He said: 'The proposals I have set out for my college are, I believe, the right ones. Ensuring that we can continue making contributions to students, employers and the wider community must be our utmost priority.'

The Students' Union executive agreed that it would constructively feed back to the principal during the consultation period on its views and would consult students for feedback on the proposals.

Its members also accepted that the union would have to review its current staffing levels and supported president Shane Mann's proposals for changes in its staffing levels, as proposed in the college's Managing Change consultation document.

Mr Mann said: 'We fully support the comments made by the principal, that college staff are our core asset and that they are critical to student success.

'Over the past two years I have seen first hand those exceptional staff that are highly dedicated and committed to the success of students. It's sad that the college have been put into this situation whereby they have to propose to lose part of this great asset due to funding cuts.'

He added: 'The union appreciates the fact that it is not the fault of the college that these proposals have had to be made, but it is nevertheless the responsibility of the college to ensure that students are not negatively impacted by these cuts, where possible.

'I am confident that the college will do all in its power to ensure students are not affected by these proposals. It is clear already that protecting students is a key principle of the college's proposal.'

Mr Mann said the union was pleased that Mr Palmer had kept to his promise that courses would not be cut, and said: 'All colleges face challenging times in the years ahead, the new coalition government has made this clear, and some have sadly already made course closures.

'We want to work with the college in ensuring it continues to be financially healthy, that it continues to provide an outstanding service to its students and that it sticks to its promise not to cut courses.'

Mr Palmer said the 'difficult changes' were being made to 'protect courses' and 'ensure that our wide range of services for students and employers will remain in place, providing the best possible all-round learning experience'.

He accepted that the college had a responsibility to 'take its share' of the current public spending cuts.

But he added: 'Nevertheless, I would also urge the government to recognise the major contribution that colleges like Norwich City College make to the region's economic development and to overall social cohesion.

'In considering future rounds of cuts, our politicians need to recognise that investing in skills, through colleges like mine, will be a vital contribution to ensuring we redress our public finances as soon as possible.'

t What do you think of the plans? Write to Evening News Letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email

t Senior managers at Great Yarmouth College are hoping to keep redundancies below 50 as they seek to balance a budget shortfall of �1m in the coming year.

Principal Robin Parkinson said: 'Like colleges up and down the country we are having to face up to some hard decisions given the cuts in funding that we are facing for the coming year. Our initial assessment was that we were anticipating a budget shortfall in the region of �1 million.'

He added: 'Given the size of the shortfall we have been undertaking a period of consultation with all staff and recognised trade unions on the possibility of up to 50 staff redundancies across all areas and levels within the college.

'We are now moving forward to identify pools of staff who are at risk of redundancy but we think that the final figure of potential redundancies, given the cost savings already identified and those staff who have expressed an interest in voluntary redundancy, will be less than 50.'

He said the college was 'definitely open for business and looking to maintain as wide a range of courses as possible'.

Staffing cuts and any impact on courses are expected to be finalised by the middle of June.