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Colleges and unis to lose £46m in pledged money

2023-06-01 17:42:44 source:CBS News author:Press center6 click:662order

A decision to give millions of pounds to colleges and universities has been reversed by the Scottish government.

A total of £46m was due to be spent on the Scottish college and university sector however it has now been identified as an "essential saving".

The money, which is distributed by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), had been voted through by MSPs.

Colleges Scotland members were "deeply dismayed" while Universities Scotland said it was "extremely disappointed".

The money was pledged by former finance minister John Swinney in the budget last December.

The college sector has been due to receive £26m and the university sector £20m.

They were told the reversal was "to meet other [Scottish government] priorities".

In a letter to the education committee, Higher and Further Education Minister Graeme Dey said: "The cabinet secretary for education and skills [Jenny Gilruth] has today written to the SFC to advise that, with regret, this additional £46m has been identified as a necessary saving in financial year 2023-24.

"As set out by the previous cabinet secretary to the committee on 22 February, we have had to make difficult choices in meeting new pressures on the education and skills portfolio since the 2023-24 budget announcement."

The move follows pay settlements for teachers and health workers.

It also comes as Scotland's college lecturers begin work to rule action by refusing to enter student marks into recording systems in a dispute over pay.

Members of the EIS-Further Education Lecturers' Association (EIS-Fela) backed the move last month.

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: "Colleges are deeply disappointed and dismayed by this U-turn from the Scottish government.

"Removing the equivalent of £1m from each college is completely inexplicable - colleges are already cash-strapped, making cuts to courses and winding down parts of their offer due to a lack of funding, not a lack of ambition from colleges or demand from students or employers."

She added: "Since December last year, numerous ministers and cabinet secretaries have repeatedly assured the college sector and Scottish Parliament that this funding was coming in 2023-24.

"Yet, less than five months on from the government's budget announcement, this promised money has now been withdrawn."

Prof Dame Sally Mapstone, convener of Universities Scotland, said the promised £20m was "far from what was required" but was a welcome step.

She said: "It is therefore dismaying when almost half a year later we are told that higher education is being deprioritised by Scottish government, despite the Scottish Parliament having voted for a Scottish Budget that provided for a £20m cash increase in investment in higher education.

"This will compromise our capacity to contribute to the nation's recovery."

The Scottish Funding Council described the current public spending environment as "challenging".

A spokeswoman added: "We will work with the sectors and other stakeholders to consider how collectively we address the challenges ahead to secure the long-term sustainability and continued success of Scotland's tertiary education sector and impactful research."

Stephen Kerr, education spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives, said the move was a "total betrayal of our education sector".

Similarly, Scottish Labour's education spokeswoman Pam Duncan-Glancy said it was a complete betrayal of students and staff.

And Willie Rennie, the Scottish Lib Dems education spokesman added: "Colleges and universities already had ugly decisions to take to balance their budgets after funding reductions by the Scottish government.

"This further cut won't help them educate more people and ready them for our economy, which is desperate for skilled and educated workers."

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