Colleges face a cut of over pound;34 million if the Scottish government's draft budget for 2013-14 becomes a reality, MSPs have been warned.
Finance secretary John Swinney's draft budget appeared at first glance to hold good news for colleges, with the announcement of pound;17 million in additional funding - pound;11 million for student support and pound;6 million for college places.
But unions giving evidence to the Scottish parliament's education committee this week were quick to disabuse MSPs of this notion.
In the 2012-13 draft budget, colleges were initially funded to the tune of pound;506.9 million - but campaigns and lobbying delivered a final figure of pound;546.3 million, including pound;13 million for college places through Skills Development Scotland, pound;11.4 million in student support and the pound;15 million College Transformation Fund.
But in 2013-14 further education is set to receive just pound;511.7 million - or pound;34.6 million less than this year - said the Educational Institute of Scotland, the National Union of Students Scotland and Unison.
The EIS and Unison also claimed in their evidence the sector had been hit by compulsory redundancies.
Figures published earlier this month showed a drop in college staff of 1,300 - 8 per cent of the sector - in the last year alone, revealed David Belsey, the EIS's national officer for further and higher education. Last year TESS uncovered that almost 900 jobs had been lost in a year in Scottish colleges, 50 of them through compulsory redundancies.
NUS Scotland said: "Colleges provide immense opportunities for further and higher education to those from our most deprived backgrounds, and it is vital that their budget continues to recognise this, not least at a time of high unemployment, especially youth unemployment."
John Swinney's draft budget last week was billed as a budget for jobs.
He signalled the end of the public sector pay freeze, annosuncing a 1 per cent increase for most government employees and plans to bring forward pound;80 million of investment to support the construction of 67 new schools - 12 more than originally planned - benefiting 69,000 pupils.
A new Scottish Energy Skills Academy "to support the creation of skills in oil and gas, renewables, thermal generation and carbon capture and storage industries" was also in the pipeline, he said. The academy would benefit from pound;18 million of new funding to support up to 10,000 young people into jobs.
The government pledged 25,000 modern apprenticeship starts and reiterated its commitment to "improving the quality of our schools through Curriculum for Excellence" and "maintaining teacher numbers in line with pupil numbers".
The sum of pound;31.6 million a year was earmarked for Education Maintenance Allowances to support pupils in the upper years of secondary and pound;50 million was set aside for early years education during the course of the current parliament.
Mr Swinney said: "A decisive shift to preventative spending is essential to improving outcomes and ensuring the long-term financial sustainability of our public services."
EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said any additional investment in education was welcome but schools were continuing to operate on "extremely tight budgets", with reduced staffing and limited resources.
BUDGET IN BRIEF
- End of the public sector pay freeze signalled.
- pound;50 million for early years education during the course of the current parliament.
- pound;80 million brought forward to build new schools.
- Commitment to maintain teacher numbers in line with pupil rolls reiterated.
- 25,000 modern apprenticeship starts.
- pound;31.6m a year earmarked for Education Maintenance Allowances.