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Inequity and perversity;Letter

It was good to see your article (FE Focus, March 20): the way in which colleges' grant-in-aid has been allocated for 1998-99 is nothing short of ridiculous.

As Neil Munro rightly points out, pound;4.2 million has been transferred from the successful colleges to prop up those which are "vulnerable" because of their financial problems. Has anybody ever asked why they are "vulnerable"? The answer is because their costs are too high, in relation to those of us whose costs are low.

Why are their costs too high? The answer is because they have failed to tackle their overstaffing in relation to the studentSUMs they generate.

Now, it seems, those of us who have put ourselves through the traumas of "downsizing" in order to live within our means are being made to pay for those who ducked the real issue and thereby have run themselves into debt.

Falkirk College achieved 38 per cent growth in 1996-97. Our reward was pound;33,000!

We now have 12,000 unfunded SUMs because we are a 75,000 SUM college being funded for 63,000 SUMs. At current value, 12,000 SUMs is equivalent to pound;1.4 million, this being our contribution to the pound;4.2 million safety net.

In other words, one-third of the safety net is being paid for by Falkirk College alone.

In case there is any doubt about what this means in operational terms, 12,000 SUMs are more than half of the SUMs generated by the smaller colleges such as Clackmannan, Cumbernauld and Elmwood and more than the entire SUM activity on each of Lews Castle, Barony and Oatridge. We are being asked to run the equivalent of Lews Castle on nothing!

It goes without saying that my board has formally appealed to Brian Wilson and requested a review of the 1998-99 allocations.

I hope you will continue to point out the inequity and perversity of what is happening to Scottish FE. The minister says he wants to reward success and promote access. He has done the very opposite.

(Dr) Graham Clark

Principal, Falkirk College

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