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Balance sheet starts from zero

Indicators on the financial performance of colleges show a 3 per cent improvement. A 3 per cent deficit for the sector as a whole in 2000-01, as a percentage of total income, moved to zero last year.

The funding council, under pressure from the Scottish Parliament and the Auditor-General, wants to see all colleges financially secure by 2006. It provided pound;31 million last year to help the strugglers get into better financial shape.

The latest figures, issued quietly in the middle of July, show that 15 colleges are still operating at a deficit, but most had improved their position during the year.

Only five - Cumbernauld, John Wheatley, Elmwood, West Lothian and Kilmarnock - were worse off. Kilmarnock's position plunged further into deficit by a record 14 percentage points, from 5 per cent to 19 per cent.

The best improvement came from Moray College, where an 11 per cent deficit in 2000-01 turned into an 8 per cent surplus last year.

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