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The Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science has announced a sustainability plan for further and higher education in Scotland in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union.

According to Scottish Funding Council (SFC) estimates, colleges could lose around £12.3 million due to the pandemic in the current academic year. The impact on universities is estimated to be around £72 million for the same period, with a projected operating deficit of between £384 million and £651 million for the next academic year.

The plan identifies key actions to address the immediate issues faced by Scotland’s colleges and universities. These include flexibility in funding for institutions; £75 million to protect Scotland’s world-leading university research; and scholarships for EU and international students. The plan also contains money for additional student support and hardship resources, and £5 million to help offset the costs of equipment for digital learners in need of extra help. An additional focus of the plan will be on enabling colleges and universities to play a key part of Scotland’s economic recovery.

The Scottish Funding Council will play a central role in implementing the plan, not least through the work it is carrying out for its review of coherent provision and sustainability. SFC will work closely with every college and university in Scotland to assess the impact of the pandemic on individual institutions, offering flexibility in its funding arrangements to ensure cash flow. SFC will also have a role in allocating an additional £10 million of funding for estate maintenance in colleges and universities. Crucially, SFC is being asked to create a COVID-19 University Support Fund (COSF) to help universities in their transition to the environment for higher education after the COVID-19 crisis.

In the area of university research SFC will work with its partners in the UK Research and Sustainability Taskforce to identify additional joint solutions for financial sustainability. To support the skills training and employability interventions needed to build economic recovery SFC will work in close partnership with both Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

In his statement this afternoon to the Scottish Parliament, the Minister concluded by recognising Scotland’s colleges and universities as “a source of strength for our nation.”

Further information on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Further and Higher Education Sustainability Plan can be found on the Scottish Government’s website.