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Concerns over ‘serious barriers’ created by £46m funding cuts affecting Tayside colleges and universities

The funds promised from Scottish Funding Council are now classed as "essential savings".

Dr Margaret Cook, UHI Perth's principal, concerned about 'barriers' created by funding cuts.
Dr Margaret Cook, UHI Perth's principal, concerned about 'barriers' created by funding cuts.

College principals in Tayside and Fife have raised concerns over a U-turn on £46 million of funding – saying the loss will create “serious barriers” in education.

The money from the Scottish Funding Council was due to be spent on the Scottish college and university sector.

But the decision has been reversed by the Scottish Government.

Ministers say the cash – voted through by MSPs – is now identified as an “essential saving”.

Dr Margaret Cook, UHI Perth’s principal, said: “The news that funding promised in the budget has been withdrawn is extremely disappointing.

“Colleges play a crucial role in offering students essential training and education to help improve their life opportunities, support communities and create the workforce of the future to improve Scotland’s future economy.

“This decision creates serious barriers in delivering these ambitions.”

College is ‘extremely concerned’

Dundee and Angus College announced proposals for 32 job cuts just two weeks ago in a bid to tackle a £2.5 million black hole in funding.

College principal Simon Hewitt said: “We are extremely concerned at the removal of this previously pledged funding for 2023/24 and about the potential impact it will have on an already challenging financial situation

Simon Hewitt principal of Dundee and Angus College.

“Whilst we recognise that all public sector finances are under pressure, the college plays a key role not just in the development of skills but also in supporting those from some of the most deprived backgrounds in the region.

“We are determined to try to put the college on a more stable financial footing to ensure we can continue to serve the needs of the local economy as effectively as we can, but we need support to do so.”

He called on the government to provide a clear strategic direction and funding method for the sector to secure its future.

Abertay and St Andrews universities disappointed

Scotland’s college sector had been due to receive £26 million and the university sector £20 million.

Professor Liz Bacon, principal and vice-chancellor at Abertay University, said: “It’s hugely disappointing to see the Scottish Government choose to withdraw this allocation, particularly when set against the backdrop of the sustained funding cuts which have been imposed on universities over the last decade.

Professor Liz Bacon, deputy vice-chancellor at Abertay University.

“Scotland needs the Scottish Government to make a proper commitment to investing in higher education if they are serious about creating the skills, training and research environment required for our people and businesses to succeed.”

Professor Dame Sally Mapstone is principal and vice-chancellor of St Andrews University and convener of Universities Scotland.

She also called for the government to release a plan to stabilise funding, adding that it can not expect to keep having world-class universities “on the cheap.”

“Universities Scotland is extremely disappointed by the Scottish Government’s decision to cut the funding promised to higher education,” she said.

“The Scottish Government heralded £20 million additional revenue investment in higher education as good news when they announced the Scottish Budget on December 15 last year.

Dame Professor Sally Mapstone
Professor Dame Sally Mapstone, the Principal of the University of St Andrews.

“It was far from what was required to meet students’ increasingly complex needs, or to sustain Scotland as a powerhouse of research and innovation, but it was a welcome step in the right direction.

“It is therefore dismaying when almost half a year later we are told that higher education is being deprioritised by Scottish Government.

“This will compromise our capacity to contribute to the nation’s recovery.”

A ‘challenging financial environment’ led to difficult decisions

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are facing the most challenging financial environment since devolution and very difficult decisions across portfolios have had to be made.

“As a result of these pressures, the additional uplift of £26 million for colleges and £20 for million universities announced as part of the 2023/24 Budget can no longer be provided this year.

“This decision does not affect the core settlement for the sectors. SFC has already announced indicative funding allocations for colleges and universities on 13 April 2023.

“The Scottish Government continues to spend nearly £2 billion a year on Scotland’s universities and colleges through the SFC alone.

“Research and innovation funding for universities has increased, with additional funding allocated for high priority maintenance across college estates.”