English ‘second language’ course fees waived by New City college group for east London adult students
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Fees for learning English as a second language are being scrapped in a “bold move” by east London’s New City college group.
The colleges are waiving fees for the courses from September—despite having faced years of government education spending cuts.
The move opens up the courses being run at Tower Hamlets College in Poplar, Hackney Community college in Shoreditch and Redbridge College in Ilford.
The government has had to bring in new funding rules following protests and years of budget cuts which now mean many adults can study without having to pay fees in the academic year starting September—but not all students.
So the New City group has decided to extend free enrolment to all adults learning English as their second language—whatever their financial circumstances.
“We are large enough to think boldly and act flexibly,” group principal Gerry McDonald said. “This will be for the benefit of our communities.
“We welcome the new funding rules—but recognise that fees would still be a barrier for some of the people who most need to study English.”
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The group is one of the country’s largest providers of English language courses, with the resources “to make sure that this significant group of east Londoners are not disadvantaged”.
It follows five years of campaigning by the colleges and the unions against government education cuts which threatened the future of the language courses.
Tower Hamlets College, now part of New City, joined a mass lobby of Parliament when it had its budget cut in 2015 by 14 per cent, followed by a further unexpected cut of four per cent.
Mr McDonald accused the government at the time of “being short-sighted not investing in the future”.
Funding for courses for foreign language speakers was stopped that year, resulting in lecturers being made redundant.
The UCU lecturers’ union general secretary Sally Hunt had called it “perverse to make enormous cuts” when migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers wanted a better chance of “getting work and taking part in British society”.
Tower Hamlets College lobbied the government because the cuts had affected adult courses including English second language classes at the Stepney campus.