College principals have warned that compulsory redundancies may be unavoidable and institutions de-stabilised, as a result of the Scottish Government's cuts.
John Spencer, convener of Scotland's Colleges' Principals' Convention, and principal of Inverness College, told the Parliament's education committee this week that, while he believed his own institution could "weather the changes", others might not be able to.
The Government is to cut FE spending by 13.5 per cent over the next three years, amounting to a pound;74 million reduction by 2014-15. A survey of all colleges, revealed in TESS on 30 September, showed that 859 staff had been made redundant in the past year alone, 50 of them compulsorily.
Liz McIntyre, principal of Borders College, told the committee that it had already reduced contact hours for every full-time student, and cut 22 posts. "I have no more slack left," she said.
The Government is suggesting that colleges should merge to improve efficiency and remove duplication, but the principals argue that these could not realistically lead to short-term efficiency savings and alternative cost-saving measures would affect students.
Paul Little, principal of City of Glasgow College, added that, although his college's merger a year ago created efficiencies, cuts might be necessary towards the end of the spending period, affecting students who were not seen as a priority.
Alan Sherry, John Wheatley College principal, expressed concern that 40 per cent of his students were outwith the 16-19 age group whom ministers want to make a priority by guaranteeing them an education or training place. This could lead to "abandoning a generation," he said.
City of Glasgow College was the only one of the four institutions appearing before the committee to guarantee no compulsory redundancies this year, due to employment undertakings which were part of the merger.