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Rural courses face axe in college cuts

OFF TRACK: Dundee and Angus College reports a ‘significant decline’ in interest for land-based courses.
OFF TRACK: Dundee and Angus College reports a ‘significant decline’ in interest for land-based courses.

Farming, horticulture, estate skills and other rural courses run by Dundee & Angus College are under threat as the college seeks to make savings of £1.5m in its annual budget.

A proposal to ditch land-based courses at the Arbroath campus at the end of this month is causing alarm in the local farming community which is already struggling to recruit young people who have any training or experience of agriculture.

Dundee & Angus College confirmed that the Scottish Government’s latest funding settlement means it needs to save over £1.5 million from its 2022-23 budget, and cutting the land-based courses would bring an estimated saving of £385,000.

In a statement the college said: “There are a broad range of savings proposals that have been put forward, and consultation on these is currently open to all staff, teams and trade unions.

“We are extremely disappointed to be in this position as a college and frustrated at a reduction in funding at a time when Scotland should be investing in education and skills.

Dundee & Angus College is in Scotland’s horticultural heartland.

“Our focus remains firmly on delivering the best outcomes for our students and despite the need to make savings, we’ll be working with staff and students to ensure they know what’s happening and have support on what’s available to them at the college and beyond.”

NFU Scotland’s Angus area secretary, Jeremy Parker, said the farming industry was “gobsmacked” by the proposals as the college is located in one of Scotland’s agricultural and horticultural heartlands.

He added: “Local delivery of skills development is as vital as ever for the needs of these businesses, with centres such as the landbased sector at Dundee & Angus College providing local students with a pathway into the vibrant careers found within modern agriculture and horticulture.”

Simon Hewitt is principal of Dundee and Angus College.

College principal Simon Hewitt insisted no final decision has been taken on the future of the courses, and he urged prospective students to apply for courses which are scheduled to start this autumn.

“These are just proposals, so it’s business as usual and we are in discussion with external stakeholders,” he said.

However, Mr Hewitt confirmed there had been a “significant decline” in interest for land-based courses in the last three years.

“All the information from schools indicates that interest in the sector is declining, but we would look at how we could attract more young people into the industry,” he said.

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