College courses need to meet local demand

David Killean,vice principal  at Borders College.
David Killean,vice principal at Borders College.

A 20% fall in student places at Borders College has led a Conservative MSP to conclude that many people are being denied the opportunity to study.

Since 2008 the number of part-time places at the college has gone down by 1,306 - a fall of 27% - while during the same period full time places have increased by 144.

“We already knew the Scottish Government had cut tens of thousands of part-time college places and replaced them with only a smattering of full-time ones,” said MSP John Lamont.

“With almost a third of part-time courses lost, people are being denied the opportunity to study in a way that is flexible to them.

“The Scottish Government’s approach to colleges, which has resulted in their funding slashed, is also failing businesses, who are worried about a skills shortage.”

However, it’s not quite as simple as that as David Killean, vice principal of Borders College explained: “The significant change that accounts for this drop is in the way community evening and leisure programmes are treated: they are no longer financed through the Scottish Funding Council. The college still offers these programmes at an affordable price but without the grant support.

“During this period Borders College has responded well to the circumstances faced by young people seeking training or employment. We increased the number of full time places available as demand from young people increased and in response to the severe recession.

“The number of full time places has increased by 15% in the period. In this way we are helping to ensure very few young people in the Borders are finding themselves without a job or anything meaningful do on leaving school.

“The number of part time places has reduced by one of the smallest percentages in the college sector. This is not as a consequence of applicants being turned away. We are increasing apprenticeship programmes and a wider range of part time courses.”