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Funding delay adds to college sector's pain

Principals left in limbo on plans for regional structure

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Principals left in limbo on plans for regional structure

Colleges will not be told how much money they are getting for the coming academic session until next year, the Scottish Funding Council has said.

Principals are concerned it will leave them only a few weeks to draw up plans for the new regional college structures that Education Secretary Michael Russell expects to see in place by February.

Scotland's Colleges, the umbrella body representing FE colleges, had previously urged the council to announce its funding figures in December to ensure colleges could plan ahead for regionalisation.

The announcement this week that universities have received a 14 per cent rise in their teaching and research grants for 2012-13 will rub salt into the wounds caused by the Government cut to the FE sector of 13.5 per cent over the next three years.

John Spencer, convener of the Principals' Convention, said: "No one wants to see student places put at risk, and we hope the Government will ensure there is no further delay in providing indicative funding levels as soon as possible in the new year.

"Colleges' plans for next year's provision are being put in place now and applications are coming in. Colleges need certainty that those plans can go ahead and budgets will be there to support them."

An SFC spokesman said it would give colleges indicative funding letters as early as possible in the new year.

Meanwhile, colleges are continuing local negotiations towards mergers and federations. James Watt College this week announced its plans to be part of the merger between Reid Kerr and Clydebank colleges.

"We are confident that the quality of our partnerships is such that we will work steadily and co-operatively to achieve a new, innovative and sustainable college for the west of Scotland," said Sue Pinder, principal of James Watt.

Aberdeen and Banff and Buchan colleges signed a federation agreement in October, and a spokeswoman for Aberdeen College said both institutions were currently working together to plan and deliver a fully co- ordinated programme of further education opportunities across the north-east.

Elsewhere, the regional groupings drawn up by the Scottish Government are proving more difficult to put in place. Last week, Motherwell, South Lanarkshire and Cumbernauld Colleges announced they would be working towards a federation in the coming weeks.

However, Coatbridge, the fourth college in the Lanarkshire region, was not part of the announcement. There had been no discussions with Coatbridge College, Hugh Logan, principal of Motherwell College, told TESS.

John Doyle, principal of Coatbridge College, said: "We are all surprised and disappointed that there is no reference to Coatbridge College. There have been discussions to which Coatbridge was not invited and therefore had no input to the statement."

He added: "Any definitive proposal for the future educational and training needs for all the people of Lanarkshire can only go ahead with the full endorsement of Coatbridge. The chairs of the four Lanarkshire colleges met with the chair of the Scottish Funding Council on December 14 and agreed to further discussions."

Watt walkout

Lecturers at James Watt College took strike action this week to protest against proposals which they say would breach a recently-negotiated no- redundancy agreement and abolish senior lecturing jobs.

The college was seeking to cut the pay and conditions of senior lecturers by rewriting job descriptions and demoting some senior lecturers, the EIS said.

The plans had united lecturing staff against "this unfair and unwarranted attack", said EIS general secretary Ronnie Smith.

Strike action is also set to continue at Carnegie College on January 11, where staff are in dispute over plans to use unqualified staff to deliver prison education.

Origional headline: Funding delay adds to college sector's pain

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