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Education / ‘Right solution’ being sought for college funding challenge, minister says

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SCOTLAND’s minister for higher and further education says there is a “legitimate concern” around the funding challenge at UHI Shetland.

However, Graeme Dey said everyone is “participating positively” in finding a solution to the issue.

It comes as UHI Shetland looks to make savings of £1.2 million by the end of this academic year to balance the books.

This looks set to include restructuring with the loss of jobs.

The matter was raised in the Scottish Parliament recently by Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart, who asked what confidence can be given to the community that there will be a college that meets the needs of learners and business in the future.

SNP MSP Dey, who was appointed as minister for higher and further education last year, told parliament he has spoken directly with Wishart on the matter.

He said both the wider UHI (University of the Highlands and Islands) organisation and the Scottish Funding Council, the government agency which provides finances for further and higher education institutions, are engaged with the college in Shetland to ensure its future.

“But it also has to be a sustainable position that it gets itself into,” Dey said.

“So there are some challenges there currently, but I think everyone is participating positively in trying to find the right solution for the college and for Shetland.”

In November the principal of UHI Shetland called for a different funding model for island colleges.

Funding model disadvantages island colleges such as UHI Shetland, principal claims

Professor Jane Lewis said the current funding model for the university and colleges sector in Scotland disadvantages smaller rural and island colleges.

With flat cash settlements from the Scottish Funding Council, and a reduction in funding for colleges by eight per cent in real terms since 2021, the government was effectively downsizing the sector, she said.

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A representative for UHI Shetland said on Tuesday that the situation is still effectively the same as it was in November.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Funding Council added: “We are working with the UHI Regional Strategic Body in response to the financial challenges experienced by UHI Shetland that would maintain learning and teaching in the region.”

Meanwhile the Scottish Government’s recent draft budget for 2024/25 saw revenue funding for Scotland 24 colleges cut by £32.7 million, or 4.7 per cent.

UHI Shetland only formed a couple of years ago in a merger of Shetland College, NAFC Marine Centre and Train Shetland.

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