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Student numbers drop blamed on allowance cuts

October 13, 2011

Almost half of further education colleges in England have seen declines in student numbers, which has been blamed on Education Maintenance Allowance being scrapped.

A survey run by the Association of Colleges shows that 49 per cent of English colleges have fewer students when compared against last year. All of them blame financial pressures, such as losing EMAs and increasing costs of transport, as the main reason.

The Department for Education says that financial support is now targeted at those who need it the most. Fiona McMillan, the Association of Colleges’ president and the principal of Bridgwater College, has said that it is the poorest students, who have the lowest skill levels, that aren’t enrolling now as they are the most vulnerable individuals to losing financial support.

The survey has been attempting to gauge the impact that the removal of EMA has had. Previously, it provided up £30 per week for students. The survey found that scrapping the allowance has been cited by English colleges as being the biggest single reason for dramatic falls in numbers.

In her own college, Ms McMillan says that EMA could provide her students with around £1,000 per year - however now just £152 per year is available for students that would have usually qualified for the allowance. The survey found that colleges are topping up support for their poor students out of their own budgets.

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