NOW that the Scottish Government has admitted that college funding has actually been cut, the debate moves on to how those cuts will impact on individual colleges.
Both the Education Minister Mike Russell, and First Minister Alex Salmond had to apologise for misleading the Scottish Parliament after they both insisted that there were no cuts to college funding, when in fact this financial year funding has actually fallen by over £9 million.
When giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee last month, Borders College Principal, Liz McIntyre, warned that funding cuts could have a damaging impact on jobs and further education.
“The current level of cuts for next year is still going to have an impact on colleges, on student places and, potentially, on jobs,” she said.
She also pointed out that the cuts also mean that courses that are available may offer employability skills but not the qualifications companies may be looking for.
“The places are not all the same. A Funding Council-funded college place with a substantive qualification is not the same as a place on a college learning programme,” Ms McIntyre said.
“From an individual student’s perspective, they might have wanted a college place which they couldn’t access because there were insufficient college places available.”
When she spoke to the same committee last year Ms McIntyre explained to MSPs: “As a rural college serving a relatively small population spread over a wide geographic area, Borders College has always had some quite difficult financial challenges. It is more difficult to achieve economies of scale. We have to maintain a broad curriculum to ensure the local community is well served, so we have already had to operate quite an efficient model just to make the figures stack up.
“We are particularly concerned that the people who are furthest from education will suffer the most if there is a reduction in the number of places. This is a concern, particularly in the Borders where there is not really anywhere else for people to go.
Mr Hume said: “The SNP have been handed a stark warning from the Principal of Borders College that their cuts to college funding could have a damaging impact on jobs and prospects for young people.
South of Scotland Lib Dem MSP Jim Hume said: “At that same committee meeting last month, there was unanimity across a range of business organisations about the importance of colleges to improving skills and employability.
“The SNP need to think again and come forward with a better deal for our colleges and students in the forthcoming budget”.
Cuts in the last financial year resulted in 22 redundancies at the 6,000-student college.