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Education / Funding council says it already pays for higher running costs in island colleges

The Scalloway campus of UHI Shetland.

THERE appears to be little room for negotiating a better funding deal for further and higher education in Shetland.

UHI Shetland, formed two years ago and part of the University or the Highlands network, is facing a £1.2 million deficit.

The funding gap is set to lead to sizeable job losses at the institution which has campuses in Lerwick and Scalloway.

While the unions claim as many as 18 lecturer posts might go at UHI Shetland, management has confirmed that restructuring will lead to the loss of a “substantial” number of staff.

More than 220 people have now signed a petition by the EIS-FELA union calling for additional funding for UHI Shetland.

However, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) said a new funding mechanism for the college sector was established back in 2017 which resulted in a substantial funding uplift for colleges in the UHI region.

SFC also said it had no budget for distant islands allowance (DIA) payment which are paid to public sector staff in Scottish island communities.

The funding council added that although DIA might not be applied to college staff, it recognises the additional costs associated with operating in remote, rural and island areas through the SFC’s rural and remoteness funding premium.

This premium supports colleges to bear the additional costs such as:

  • College size where it is more difficult to make economies of scale
  • Smaller class sizes
  • Multi-campus operations
  • Travel to deliver provision.

The funding council said the premium was last reviewed in 2017 which led to a £1 million uplift, the majority of which was allocated to UHI.

A spokesperson said: “SFC does not receive funding to provide Distance Islands Allowance to colleges.  However, our funding model does include a rural and remoteness premium that takes into account the additional costs incurred by colleges operating in rural and remote areas.”

UHI Shetland said it lost around £300,000 a year in distant island allowance funding when the local college sector separated from Shetland Islands Council in 2021.

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