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Student places boosted by Lib Dems

The further education sector has benefited from the recession once again, thanks to the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

The Scottish Parliament approved the Government's pound;30 billion budget on Wednesday, including an extra pound;30 million for colleges and universities in this academic year and the next to ensure they can meet the unprecedented demand for places from students who are looking to acquire new and updated skills.

Finance Minister John Swinney approved the additional expenditure after pressure from the Liberal Democrats in negotiations with opposition parties in order to get his budget passed.

Linda McTavish, the convener of the principals' convention in Scotland's Colleges, said this was "welcome news" and contrasted with the situation in England where college and university budgets were being cut.

The extra cash will support 7,500 more students in further and higher education, and follows on from the pound;28 million package announced last June, which was partly aimed at creating 3,500 additional FE places.

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information by the Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that only four of the 34 colleges which responded said they had not turned away any students this year.

The pressure on FE places is forcing colleges to reject at least four times as many applicants as last year, with the prospects for students even worse at some colleges.

Cardonald in Glasgow closed its doors to a record 7,785 applicants against 3,575 the year before, and Glasgow Metropolitan has 3,531 on its waiting list compared with 1,404 last session.

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