The Scottish college budget is to remain unchanged, finance minister John Swinney has said.
According to the draft budget document, net college resource will remain at £530.3 million for 2016-17 – the same amount as the Scottish Funding Council allocated to the sector for the current academic year.
In his draft budget statement in the Scottish Parliament today, Mr Swinney said he had protected college funding in difficult financial circumstances, delivering the budget stability the further education system needed. “This will allow the reformed college sector to build on its strengths in delivery of relevant, high-quality learning connected to the needs of their regions," he told MSPs.
But colleges warned that while there was some recognition of the contribution the FE sector has made, it could still lead to “some difficult decisions" for providers, with funding well below the 2010-11 level of £580 million. The sector has also gone through major reform in recent years, as a series of mergers created 13 college regions, most with only one large college.
Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said colleges were critical to the delivery of the Scottish government’s policy priorities and today’s announcement allowed the sector to maintain high quality services for students. But she added: “We acknowledge the tight public financial constraints. However, there are unavoidable costs facing the college sector from 2016-17, which does point to some difficult decisions that need to be made by colleges. However, Colleges Scotland presented the Scottish government with several imaginative solutions for across post-16 education and we will aim to continue to discuss these with the Scottish government, seeking to take them forward and to ensure adequate funding."
Vonnie Sandlan, president of NUS Scotland, said it was “really good to see a recognition of the importance of our colleges, and continued protection of their budget”. “But college students are still left with the uncertainty of whether they’ll have enough money to live on," she added.
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