The teacher training budget is bracing itself to take a further blow, The TESS can reveal.
The Scottish Funding Council last week unveiled plans to redistribute its pound;700 million grant for teaching courses at universities. The effect will be to create winners and losers among the various subjects, and means the allocation that goes to education faculties could drop by 10 per cent, from pound;53m to pound;48m.
This comes on top of the pound;8 million cut in teacher training for 2010-11, announced last month by Finance Secretary John Swinney in his draft budget.
The teacher education institutions are aghast, and the universities as a whole have expressed their opposition - particularly the newer ones which will lose most heavily because they have a greater number of courses priced in a lower category by the SFC.
The funding council says its proposals, which are out for consultation until December 4, are based on returns from the universities themselves on the actual costs of delivering courses, so they are therefore fairer and represent better value for money.
But Jim Conroy, the dean of education at Glasgow University, said the mechanism used - known as TRAC (the Transparent Approach to Costing for Teaching) - is not suitable for a subject like education involved in the training of teachers. "It does not capture the complex workload patterns surrounding classroom placements, for example, in terms of supporting students and engaging with the profession, as well as other costs such as travel which are substantial in some places. The model is not subtle enough."
He cited the case of a lecturer spending an hour with a student in a school, taking an hour to get there and another to return. Although that is a three-hour commitment, TRAC will record it as only one hour of teaching and the two hours' travel as "teaching support".
There are also concerns among the TEIs that the combined effects of these reductions will leave them dangerously weak and incapable of responding to the upswing in demand for teachers when it comes. The institutions point out that 40,000 more young people were born this year than actuarially forecast. In five years' time, if the legal limit of 25 pupils in P1 is in place, that will mean 1,600 extra classrooms and teachers will be needed.
The funding council analysis of the TRAC data has led it to reduce the 23 subject groups which exist for teaching funding purposes to four. It has put a price of pound;6,700 on each full-time undergraduate and postgraduate place in education, compared with two separate prices now, of pound;7,420 and pound;7,085 respectively.
The SFC says it is "committed to phasing in any changes over a period of time to avoid any unmanageable changes".