Further education colleges are to receive an extra pound;19 million for the academic year beginning in August. The 4 per cent increase brings the total package to pound;555 million. An additional pound;89 million is earmarked for capital spending, a 1.6 per cent rise.
Although the benefits for individual colleges vary widely (see table), a handful have had their grant boosted to help them reach out to more students in areas where participation rates in FE are out of line with those of other colleges.
Last year, six colleges in Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire and Highland had pound;4 million in additional support for this purpose. Next session, five colleges in the south of Scotland, the central belt and Highland will get extra funding - 7 per cent more in the case of North Highland College in Thurso for its work with the fledgling Argyll College.
The Scottish Funding Council aims to reinforce this participation strategy by increasing student bursaries to nearly pound;58 million (a 3 per cent rise), giving more discretionary help of pound;6 million in cases of student hardship (also a 3 per cent rise) and providing additional support for childcare of pound;8.3 million (up 9.6 per cent).
Two colleges - Banff and Buchan, and Lews Castle - will get below-inflation increases. But the funding council, whose grant details were revealed to colleges on Wednesday, insists this is because of changes in their student populations, rather than a reflection on the colleges' competence. "Entry costs" of enrolling students decrease, for example, if more full-time than part-time students sign up.
Roger McClure, who leaves as chief executive of the SFC at the end of this month, said he was particularly pleased the council had been able to keep its "strong commitment" to sustained investment in capital funding so that "in due course all of Scotland's college students and staff are able to work in excellent facilities". He said: "The progress already made with new and refurbished campuses is increasingly visible right across Scotland."
This year's capital allocation of pound;89 million will rise sharply to pound;96.9 million in 2009-10 and then to pound;97.5 million in 2010-11.
Mr McClure also said the council had been able to give priority to teaching, in line with the wishes of Fiona Hyslop, the Education and Lifelong Learning Secretary. Funding for this, within the overall pound;555 million package, will be pound;452 million, an increase of pound;19 million.
Other key policies will be given additional funding support, such as pound;4.5 million for the "more choices, more chances" at-risk group (a 50 per cent increase), pound;3 million for knowledge transfer of FE activities to support small businesses (also a 50 per cent rise) and pound;3 million for school-college partnerships and enhancing lecturers' teaching qualifications.
The grant announced this week does not include the one-off sum of pound;10 million announced by the Education Secretary last month. The distribution of this to individual colleges was revealed last Friday, and includes pound;5 million for investment in staff and another pound;3 million for the "more choices, more chances" group.