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Education / Cut in college funding a decision against education, UHI Shetland chair says

The Scalloway campus of UHI Shetland.

CUTTING the annual funding for college sector in Scotland by almost five per cent has made UHI Shetland’s already tough financial situation even more difficult.

The newly merged college already faces a painful restructuring process with the loss of jobs and courses on offer in an attempt to reduce a £1.2 million funding gap in the current academic year.

Acting chair of UHI Shetland David Sandison said the Scottish Government draft budget, announced this week, was a decision against what the education sector needed.

Revenue funding for Scotland 24 colleges is set to be cut by £32.7 million, or 4.7 per cent.

Sandison said he needed to see the breakdown of funding to be able to comment in more detail.

“But whatever way you want to dress it up, we got a 4.7 per cent cut in funding, and that is a big cut where we have already been sitting with absolutely no increase in money for years,” he said.

Davie Sandison.

“On top of the situation that we already got; any cut is exactly the opposite of what we need.

“For us at UHI Shetland there is not a lot that we can do other than retrack, cut back and do less with the money that is available.

“It is a very poor situation, and it tells me that the government, whatever the justification might be for them, is not supporting the college sector sufficiently for it to thrive.

“As a board of directors, we have the duty and responsibility to balance our books. We have little room to control these things themselves; the funding that we need, by and large, comes from government and funding agencies.”

Sandison added that following the merger UHI had no reserves to fall back on, and even raising its own income does not cover the cost of running a college.

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Colleges Scotland chief executive Shona Struthers said: “Cutting college funding again creates massive challenges for college leaders. Without adequate funding to deliver education and training, major changes will have to be made.

“There will be difficult choices about what courses colleges can deliver, what buildings can be repaired, and how to cope with rising staff costs. Colleges have already seen their budgets slashed in previous years.”

Sandison continued by saying that the UHI Shetland board and management would meet with staff groups and negotiating committees in early January to discuss updated restructuring proposals.

These will then be discussed and eventually signed off at a board meeting at the end of January.

“We have given an assurance to all existing students and people who have already signed on to courses that there will be absolutely no threat to continuation and completion of anything that is already underway,” he said.

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