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Scotland’s Colleges 2019 report

Scotland’s Colleges 2019 report

4 Jun 2019

A copy of ‘Scotland’s Colleges 2019’ and Audit Scotland’s press release can be found online.

The reports highlights financial challenges for the sector, particularly around maintenance and repairs. It notes student numbers have increased and the sector exceeded its activity targets, though attainment gaps still exist for students from the most deprived areas, students with disabilities, and care-experienced students.

Commenting on the report, Further Education Minister Richard Lochhead said:

"Audit Scotland finds that the college sector reported a small, but improved, underlying financial surplus in 2017-18. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) assists colleges with their medium and long term financial planning and provides support as required. We are also working with the sector to diversify income streams. The SFC will produce a medium term capital investment strategy for the college estate which will provide valuable evidence to determine future investment.

“Since 2007, the Scottish Government has invested more than £7 billion in colleges, with over £600 million this financial year. In real terms we’ve allocated over £810 million to capital projects including new campuses and buildings. More than 11,000 more full-time college students successfully completed their course last year compared to a decade ago, with improving attainment rates for students from the most deprived areas over the last six years.”

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), said:

“In a tight financial environment it is encouraging to see that colleges are performing well, exceeding their learning activity targets and adapting to changing economic and demographic trends. Funding will, however, continue to be challenging and we will therefore support colleges in their financial planning and work with Scottish Government to identify appropriate funding models for future capital investment.”

Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland, said:

“Scotland’s Colleges 2019 confirms that colleges continue to operate in narrow financial margins and face significant challenges. The underlying financial position of many colleges is concerning, as almost half of the 26 colleges are forecasting recurring financial deficits by 2022-23.

“The report also highlights that there is currently insufficient capital investment to properly address the needs of the sector, so it is critical that the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review delivers on revenue and capital investment for college learners by safeguarding the sector which upskills the workers and supports inclusive economic growth.

“The Scottish Government is increasing revenue investment in colleges, which we welcome, but this additional funding is being used to cover the growing costs from harmonising pay, terms and conditions across the sector. EIS-FELA members currently being balloted on whether to accept the deal being offered by colleges should recognise that all that additional money is coming from colleges making cuts elsewhere.

“It is also clear from this report that colleges’ ability to generate alternative funding, such as through commercial income, remains limited, therefore, the sector would welcome greater flexibility to help in this area.

“This report also highlights that student numbers are increasing and the sector continues to meet its learning activity targets. In further encouraging news, the report outlines the vital role colleges play in widening access as the number of disabled, ethnic minority, and care-experienced students is increasing.

“Colleges will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council to provide sufficient sustainable investment which will enable colleges to continue delivering benefits for students, employers, and the economy.”