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Call for grant shake-up

Further education college heads north of the border are pressing the Scottish Office to take control of student bursaries when the new unitary local authorities come into force next April.

The Association of Scottish Colleges this week told Secretary of State Michael Forsyth that the cash could "haemorrhage away" under the new authorities.

They want the Scottish Office to take over the job of paying out FE student grants. The Government's Student Awards Agency for Scotland already deals with higher education student grants.

The association says it is no longer possible for local education authorities to administer bursaries. The bid has been partly fuelled by the arrival of 29 much smaller, cash-strapped authorities next year and by the position in England and Wales where many local councils have stopped or drastically reduced financial support for FE students.

So far, none of the 12 Scottish education authorities has followed suit, but they have capped their Pounds 50 million expenditure on FE bursaries.

In his letter to Mr Forsyth, Ray Baker, the ASC chairman, also sets out the option of handing over responsibility for bursaries directly to the colleges.

But his letter acknowledges that such a move would be "a considerable challenge."

Colleges are said to fear the extra administrative costs as well as the publicity if they are forced to turn students away.

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