The future of higher education in north east Fife is hanging in the balance as the area’s needs come under scrutiny.
A study of student demand and the economic requirements of the region has been announced as fears for the future of the SRUC’s Elmwood campus continue.
The move by the Scottish Funding Council comes after months of top-level discussions between them, Scotland’s Rural College and Fife College in the ongoing bid to secure sustainable provision in Cupar.
While SRUC has insisted it has no plans to withdraw from the town, Fife Council’s education spokesman claimed no-one had any confidence in either the college or the funding council.
Councillor Bryan Poole said: “Frankly, this looks like some cobbled together activity, probably politically driven, designed primarily to look like something is going to happen rather than find a solution to further education in Cupar and north east Fife.”
Mr Poole said significant investment in the Elmwood campus had been needed for some time.
“Not so long ago Elmwood College was a thriving local further education college providing niche courses to meet the particular needs of the local rural economy,” he said.
“The regionalisation has brought drift, uncertainty, decline, underinvestment and a raft of mixed messages.”
The study, announced in a letter to north east Fife MSP Willie Rennie, could take up to six months to complete.
It comes against a backdrop of falling student numbers and low staff morale.
Mr Rennie said it was essential that the area returned to having a vibrant further education provision.
“It’s been slow progress but at least some progress is being made,” he said.
“The body of work that has been agreed by SRUC and Fife College gives the foundation for an agreement to be reached.”
Describing the uncertainty of the last few years as “extremely unhelpful”, Mr Rennie added: “We need a resolution within the next few months in order to implement this plan for 2018.
“In the meantime, we need SRUC and Fife College to maintain and increase their offer to the students of our area.”
A spokesperson for SRUC said: “I can confirm that a strategy is being considered and while the detail of it is still to be finalised we have no plans to withdraw from Elmwood and remain committed to Fife.”