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Budgets to get 2% top-up;FE Focus;ASC annual conference

Neil Munro reports from the ASC's annual conference in Dunblane on the new ministerial drive for lifelong education

COLLEGES should expect funding increases next year of 5 per cent to allow for "affordable growth", the conference heard. That compares with 3 per cent this year.

But Professor John Sizer, chief executive of the Scottish Further Education Funding Council, pointed out this was an average figure and some colleges would have less than 5 per cent. He urged colleges to plan "sensibly", taking account of student needs in their area.

The additional growth represents funding to fulfil the initial stages of the Government's commitment to create an extra 40,000 student places in FE over the next three years. This year 8,000 additional places have been funded, of which 5,250 are part-time.

The quality of colleges' work is likely to remain a key factor, and the funding council has begun detailed discussions with HMI. But David Wann, the council's director of funding, appeared sceptical about whether current quality measures would themselves pass the quality test.

The state of college property is to be the subject of an entirely fresh assessment by the funding council to identify priorities for capital investment. It will also be carrying out a review of student bursaries to complement the Scottish Parliament's inquiry into student funding.

The pound;3 million set aside for "strategic developments" such as encouraging mergers, collaborative working and innovation will be renewed every year by at least the same amount. Each college will have an initial pound;20,000 to work up proposals. A minimum of pound;100,000 for each project would be allocated in October.

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