Fears for future of NRC art courses in Larne

Funding cuts could mean that two of the Northern Regional College’s (NRC) Leisure Art courses held in Larne will be axed, affecting twenty students.

The 15-week Leisure Arts courses are held at the college’s Pound Street campus.

The course starts in September and runs again in January, when many of the September students re-enrol.

The NRC says that taking into account those that re-enrol, the funding cuts would affect 20 students. The Larne courses are among over 50 courses across the NRC’s seven campuses which could be shelved.

Following a Department for Employment and Learning decision to end subsidies for all leisure courses, the college is now considering “trimming” what it has to offer.

This could involve cutting leisure courses to save money, or continuing to run some courses but charging learners the full cost.

Other courses under threat include upholstery, cookery, interior design, flower arranging, woodwork and motor vehicle maintenance.

In a statement, Colleges Northern Ireland revealed that budget cuts to the FE sector amounted to £12m for 2015/16.

Chief Executive of Colleges Northern Ireland Gerry Campbell commented: “The cuts of £12million to the 2015/16 budget will have impacts on the role of the FE sector to deliver high quality education and training which is central to rebuilding and rebalancing the NI economy.

“The Department for Employment and Learning has clearly stated some areas affected by these cuts.

“In future, Essential Skills places will be reduced in line with falling demand over the last few years, subsidies for the delivery of hobby and leisure courses will end and higher education tuition costs will be harmonised across all six FE Colleges.”

An NRC spokesperson stated that “no final decision has been made by Northern Regional College as to the future of these courses.”

It is understood that the college’s executive management team is carrying out a cost analysis in relation to each leisure course to assess their future viability.

NRC bosses are expected to make a decision on the future of the leisure courses within the next few weeks.

A decision will have to be taken before early May when the college is due to publish details of the courses it will offer in the next academic year.