Social needs of FE students

11th August 2000 at 01:00
RECENTLY, abandoning a New Year's resolution - my umpteenth attempt at reading Proust in the original - I turned to the more gripping literature of the recent newsletters of the Scottish Further Education Funding Council and other reports on the state of FE in Scotland.

It is a sound maxim that one should not bite the hand that feeds you and I won't. I, for one, welcomed the establishment of the SFEFC and so far I think it is doing a reasonably good job. Indeed, one of the stated, if somewhat altruistic, aims of the council is to promote and secure equality of educational opportunity. No one disagrees with that.

But that said, I continue to get totally exasperated when I come across the dreaded acronym SUMS - now promoted to weighted SUMS (WSUMS). A SUM is a student unit of measurement. Perhaps I should have another stab at Proust.

The new funding methodology drawn up by the SFEFC claims to be fairer and more rational. However, it creates a system of winners and losers. To me and many of my fellow board members it seems just as Byzantine as the old funding mechanism and we are uzzled as to why Stevenson College seems to be losing out this time round.

One bit of good news is that Stevenson is to receive a modest capital grant which will improve social facilities for students. In the last few years the students' union building has literally been falling to bits. Compared to universities, both ancient and modern, the present social accommodation for students in FE colleges is hopelessly inadequate and often incredibly scruffy.

The SFEFC has a lot to contend with and a difficult task in sorting out come of the dafter consequences of incorporation, but one area it needs to address is the social as well as classroom accommodation for FE students.

I am constantly told by many of my own students who have progressed from FE colleges to universities just how different standards are in the two establishments. Widening access is to be welcomed but it should go hand in hand with good housekeeping and adequate social facilities for all students, irrespective of the institution.

Henry Cowper

Member of board

Stevenson College

Edinburgh


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