Scottish colleges and universities are set to lose £46 million in promised funding

The Scottish government has reversed its decision to allocate millions of pounds to colleges and universities, citing it as an “essential saving.” The planned expenditure of £46 million for the sector will no longer be carried out.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC), responsible for distributing the funds, had received approval from MSPs for the allocation. However, Colleges Scotland expressed deep dismay, and Universities Scotland conveyed extreme disappointment regarding the decision.

Former finance minister John Swinney had pledged the funds in last December’s budget, with £26m designated for the college sector and £20m for the university sector.

The decision to reverse the funding allocation was made in order to prioritize other Scottish government initiatives. In a letter to the education committee, Higher and Further Education Minister Graeme Dey stated that the additional £46m had been identified as a necessary saving for the financial year 2023-24, as advised by Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills Jenny Gilruth.

“As outlined by the former cabinet secretary during the committee meeting on February 22nd, we have been faced with challenging decisions to address emerging demands within the education and skills portfolio subsequent to the budget announcement for 2023-24.”

The decision coincides with recent pay settlements for teachers and health workers, and coincides with a work-to-rule action by Scotland’s college lecturers, who are refusing to enter student marks into recording systems in a pay dispute.

Last month, the EIS-Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-Fela) supported the decision.

Shona Struthers, CEO of Colleges Scotland, voiced profound disappointment and dismay over the Scottish government’s reversal.

The decision to remove £1 million from each college is seen as completely inexplicable by Colleges Scotland, as colleges are already facing financial constraints and making cuts to courses. This has resulted in reduced offerings despite the continued demand from students and employers.

In December last year, several ministers and cabinet secretaries had consistently assured the college sector and the Scottish Parliament that this funding would be allocated in 2023-24,” she added.

“However, in a surprising turn of events, this pledged funding has been withdrawn less than five months after the government’s budget announcement,” she stated.

Prof Dame Sally Mapstone, convener of Universities Scotland, acknowledged that the promised £20m fell short of the actual needs but still considered it a positive step forward.

She expressed disappointment, stating, “It is disheartening to learn that higher education is being deprioritized by the Scottish government, despite the Scottish Parliament’s endorsement of a budget that included a £20m increase in investment for higher education.”

Describing the current public spending environment as “challenging,” the Scottish Funding Council acknowledged a sense of “total betrayal.”




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By Ryan

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