Colleges get new trickle of cash

12th June 1998 at 01:00
The Education Minister is expected to announce a further tranche of cash for the beleaguered further education sector today (Friday), the fifth ad hoc injection since Labour came to power last May.

Brian Wilson will take his cheque-book to the annual conference of the Association of Scottish Colleges in Uphall. The pound;1 million initiative for widening access will be shared by all colleges for projects such as outreach provision and distance learning.

But Mr Wilson will also signal his most unambiguous acknowledgement to date that the sector is underfunded. He will repeat his hope of getting "serious money" into colleges, which is likely to follow the Treasury's comprehensive spending review later this year.

The Government came in for criticism from the colleges last month when Mr Wilson announced an extra pound;6 million to provide free tuition for 3,000 part-time degree students in higher education who are on low incomes or unemployed.

There was no parallel move for FE where colleges have discretion to waive fees for students on benefit who are aged over 18, for which they received more than pound;17 million in Scottish Office compensation last year.

While today's announcement is not so significant, Mr Wilson is determined to press home the message of his wider access policy in both colleges and universities to answer critics who say tuition fees and the abolition of student grants will have the opposite effect.

The hand-out brings to pound;6.3 million the total of one-off injections colleges have received since last May. Mr Wilson says he has found pound;12.4 million in "new money", but pound;5 million is anticipated income from tuition fees charged to HE students in the colleges.

The ASC has been waging a lengthy campaign to win Government acknowledgement that colleges continue to face two fundamental problems, the overall level of funding and the grant formula.

EIS plea, FE Focus, page 30

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