Investment does not help rural colleges

11th September 2009 at 01:00

Sixteen colleges have now been told how much capital investment they will receive from the Scottish Government's pound;28 million package to help them respond to the recession - and the decision immediately ran into criticism from rural colleges who claim they have lost out.

The Scottish Funding Council, whose job it is to distribute the money, has allocated pound;12 million to upgrade buildings and equipment, ranging from an additional pound;1.4m each for Adam Smith and Forth Valley colleges to pound;243,000 for Stow College (although that is still subject to negotiation). The cash is disbursed on the basis of local unemployment rates among 17 to 24 year olds. It follows on from the extra pound;7.7m which 26 colleges received to create extra student places this session; another pound;8.4m has been earmarked for more places next session.

But Scotland's Rural Colleges, which says it speaks for 12 FE institutions, strongly criticised the way the cash has been allocated.

It welcomed the additional funding, but said rural colleges would get nothing out of it - despite the fact that all of them have seen an increase in demand for student places, "similar to, and in some cases greater than, the FE sector as a whole".

A statement added: "This is a great disappointment, not only to the colleges, but to the thousands of potential students we have been collectively forced to turn away, and we deeply regret the impact this will have on the rural communities of Scotland".

Recent research obtained by The TESS (August 28) revealed that rural areas have experienced a huge surge in youth unemployment. In Orkney, the additional 40 people out of work among 17-24 year olds represents a rise of 267 per cent. In East Lothian, another 315 in the age group have joined the dole queue, which is an increase of 147 per cent.

The rural colleges group pointed out that Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop had asked the funding council to give priority to helping school leavers and parts of the country where the need was greatest.

Scotland's Colleges has kept quiet on the issue, since its members include winners as well as losers in the cash hand-out.

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