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Help for isolated colleges

TWELVE rural and island colleges should have a hike of 15 per cent in part of their funding to compensate for extra costs and limitations on size. The recommendation, from a Government-appointed firm of management consultants, is likely to be adopted in college grants for next session.

Angus, Banff and Buchan, Barony, Borders, Dumfries and Galloway, Inverness, Moray, Perth and Thurso would receive a 15 per cent premium on student-based funding for students living more than 30 minutes' drive from the main campus.

All students at the three island colleges - Lews Castle in the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland - would attract the premium, a move the consultants accept could be controversial because it includes no incentive to open outreach facilities or recruit more students from remote areas.

The recommendations by Leishman Management Consulting follow the practice of the Welsh Further Education Funding Council. They have been broadly welcomed by Jim Neil, principal of Dumfries College, who heads the 10-strong group of rural colleges. "It would be difficult to dispute a formula already under way in Wales," Mr Neil said.

He hoped "this would not be the end of the story". The former agricultural colleges were dependent on land-based studies and had problems of small numbers and highly specialist courses.

The report says that rural and island colleges "generally require to run courses with lower numbers of students than they could accommodate andor teach at academically acceptable staff student rations". The Scottish Office has asked principals for comments by January 31 but says that the Education Minister would be advised to "include a rurality factor" in next year's allocations.

FE Focus, page 23

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