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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

College cuts are real

Scotland's Further Education colleges have born the brunt of education cuts as a new Audit Scotland report confirms.

Audit Scotland have published a report today on Scotland's colleges that confirms the scale of budget cuts and the consequential impact on jobs and courses. Debunking Scottish Government spin on this issue. 

The first key finding is that there was a cut in SFC grant funding (government cash) of £56 million in real terms compared to 2010-1. This contributed to colleges overall income falling by nine per cent. The college sector faces an overall 11 per cent real-terms reduction in revenue grant funding from the Scottish Government between 2011/12 and 2014/15. The chart below illustrates this cut very clearly.

The reclassification of colleges as public bodies will also make it more difficult to build up financial reserves as a cushion against budget cuts. The report also highlights that college reserves have been raided to pay for the Government's college centralisation plans, contrary to the Griggs report recommendations.

The second key finding is that student numbers have been slashed through a cull of part-time places. Again this chart illustrates the cut clearly.

The report looks ahead to the impact of mergers and highlights very real challenges for the sector. Every bit as challenging for the students who have to travel from what was a local college to a regional one. It highlights the needs of older people and others who rely on part-time college places.

Most of the cuts have come from staff costs, to be expected in a staff intensive sector, but the report rightly highlights the challenges going forward in maintaining quality. The SFC has already lowered its expectation of the amount of college learning that can be delivered by around 4%, with a further 5% this year.

The Auditor General, Caroline Gardner, sums it up well, "Income has fallen significantly and this will continue for the foreseeable future. Colleges will have to manage these funding reductions and changes in structure and status while meeting local communities' demands for further education."

Given the effort to spin college cuts away, this report is a useful reminder that further education has taken the brunt of education cuts in Scotland and college learning will suffer as a consequence.

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