COLEG Gwent yesterday announced it will cut 74 jobs and restructure its campuses as it looks to make savings of £3.5million.

The announcement that Wales' largest further education college, with more than 35,000 students, will also include a radical shake-up of education in its sites in Newport, Crosskeys, Ebbw Vale, Usk, Pontypool and the closure of the Hill Education and Conference Centre in Abergavenny.

Affected staff will now enter a 90 day consultation period over the job losses.

The college, which made the move following Assembly funding cuts, says it will try to limit compulsory redundancies with an early retirement option or voluntary redundancies.

23 of the job cuts will effect teachers and support staff from across Coleg Gwent campuses.

As part of the plans, in September the college will close the Hill Education and Conference Centre in Abergavenny with the loss of 41 jobs and relocate all A-Level courses from its Pontypool to Crosskeys campus.

Other changes from July 31 could see the college close both its Stepping Stones Nursery in Ebbw Vale with six redundancies, and the Rhadyr Garden Centre with four redundancies, as well as the replacement of the current student transport system.

19 courses at Usk, Newport and Ebbw Vale campuses will also close at the end of this academic year in July.

The college says it will honour its commitment to all students who are currently in the middle of a two-year programme, but some pupils might have to travel to a different campus to the one they are currently based at.

Coleg Gwent principle, Howard Burton, said the college had expected to receive an additional £2.7m to its budget this year.

Instead it is facing a £300,000 funding cut because of a 7.43 percent cut for all post-16 education in Wales.

The college is also required to give its lecturers a 2.3 percent pay increase to match that awarded to school teachers.

He said: “The cuts made by the Welsh Assembly Government have been nothing short of devastating.

“Despite strong lobbying by myself and other college principals affected by the funding cuts, the Welsh Assembly Government has refused to replace the core funding taken out by the 7.43% cut, equivalent to £22 million, for 2009/10.

“We understand that in today’s economic climate budgets across the board are under pressure. However cuts on this scale in further education are hard to understand.”

Yesterday’s proposals form part of the college’s Sustainability Action Plan, a strategic review into the college’s operations, which will be completed in November.

A second phase of the plan will include proposals for generating additional income.

  • Scores of lecturers and students from across gathered outside the Senedd to protest at cutbacks in further education yesterday.

They called on the Assembly Government to protect courses and jobs they say are under threat at a time when colleges are expected to help get Wales through the recession.