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Photocollage of university students.

Photos: University of Aberdeen, University of Glasgow, University of St. Andrews

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has today published indicative funding allocations for Scotland’s universities.

SFC has increased investment in university research and innovation and has allocated funds in a way that maintains the investment in teaching for Scottish students. As planned, today’s announcement also confirms the removal of 1,289 temporary places that were made available in 2020-21 to support additional learners through the Covid-19 period. These learners will be graduating at the end of this academic year. The removal of these places does not impact on opportunities for Scottish students because there are more funded places available now than before the Covid period, mainly due to EU students no longer being funded but the places remaining in the system and still being available for Scottish students.

However, this was a particularly challenging budget settlement for the university sector and there has been a reduction overall in the resource funding allocated, in line with the budget set by the Scottish Government.

Commenting on today’s announcement, SFC Chief Executive Karen Watt said:

“This has been a particularly challenging funding round. While we recognise that universities are operating in a difficult financial environment, managing a range of different pressures, the funding package we are announcing today will ensure that more opportunities are available for Scottish students than pre-Covid. We are also increasing investment in university research and innovation given its vital importance to new discoveries and making research useful for social and economic benefit.”

Full details of the allocations are available on SFC’s website.

 

Photocollage of Robert Gordon University and University of Aberdeen campus. On the right top a student working on a planning project and on the right bottom a group of students chat on a historical site.

Photos: Robert Gordon University and University of Aberdeen.

Today the National Energy Skills Accelerator (NESA) and partners are launching Energy Career Pathways, an interactive tool for prospective employees in the energy sector to identify the qualifications they would require for specific roles and where they can undertake qualifications in the North East of Scotland.

Energy Career Pathways is one of seven innovative pilot projects now in development in two Pathfinder regions in Scotland where SFC is working alongside key regional education and skills partners.

Supported with funding from SFC’s regional tertiary pathfinder, the aim of Energy Career Pathways is to help accelerate the pace of workforce development. Key partners recognised there were skills demands which would develop as a result of the energy transition.

The project demonstrates the advantages of regional collaboration as NESA brings together the region’s leading academic institutions and built on this to develop a unique energy transition skills pathway.

Community engagement was undertaken to support the Energy Career Pathways and data was gathered through surveys, interviews with third sector providers, youth group workshops and community group meetings.

Established in June 2021, the NESA is a collaborative initiative between the University of Aberdeen, Robert Gordon University and North East Scotland College (referred to collectively as NESA institutions), supported by SFC, Skills Development Scotland and Energy Transition Zone Ltd. NESA works with businesses and training organisations with the aim to create a more flexible and resilient workforce for the energy sector.

For a full demonstration and an overview of NESA’s Energy Career Pathway, register now for their webinar demonstrating the tool on 23 April 2024.

Photos: UHI Perth, Forth Valley College, Dundee and Angus College

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has today published indicative funding allocations for Scotland’s colleges for Academic Year 2024-25.

Today’s announcement is set within the context of a particularly challenging budget settlement for further and higher education. SFC has worked closely with sector representatives to secure a flat cash core teaching budget, committing to invest £509m to support learners across Scotland’s 24 colleges. The announcement also provides colleges with details on their student support allocations, providing vital support for students to complete their studies, and on capital budgets, enabling colleges to maintain and invest in their estates and digital infrastructure.

Commenting on today’s announcement, SFC Chief Executive Karen Watt said:

“We make these early allocations so that colleges have planning assumptions to support them in their decision making. We know colleges face challenges from a constrained public sector funding environment and rising costs. Our indicative funding allocations will enable them to plan for the forthcoming academic year, providing vital opportunities for learners and playing a key role in delivering the skills Scotland needs.”

Full details of the allocations are available on SFC’s website.

The UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) reached a significant milestone this week with its total investment now topping £1 billion.

A group of researchers looking through microscopes.

Photo: University of Glasgow

The UK-wide fund for research partnerships announced this week a further £63 million of investment. The total amount of money the fund has brought into university research in the UK now totals more than £1 billion. 

First introduced in 2012, the UKRI UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) asks universities to attract a further £2 from non-public sources for every £1 invested by the Fund. Its purpose is to support the development of state-of-the-art, large scale research infrastructures to enable world-leading research. 

The Scottish Funding Council is one of the Fund’s partners alongside Research England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for the Economy, Northern Ireland. 

To date, Scottish universities have received £70 million of UKRPIF investment. Amongst the first wave of universities to benefit was the University of Dundee. An UKRPIF investment of £11.9 million represented a significant and transformative step towards the 2014 opening of its now renowned £26 million Discovery Centre.  

Another early recipient was the University of Glasgow which was awarded £10 million in 2013 towards the development of a new clinical research facility at the South Glasgow Hospitals Campus.  

The University of Edinburgh has received UKRPIF funding for two projects. A grant of £10.7 million contributed to the building of the Institute for Regeneration and Repair at Edinburgh BioQuarter which opened in January 2023. Rheumatoid arthritis, lung cancer and reproductive health are just some of the medical conditions being investigated at the new facility. 

The University of Edinburgh also received almost £12.5 million towards the development of a flagship Building a New Biology facility as part of its plan to create an integrated research complex. 

In 2013 the University of Strathclyde was awarded £11.4 million of UKPIF funding to enable it to develop CMAC, a multi-institution research hub for pharmaceutical manufacturing. In 2023, CMAC received a further £11 million for the CMAC Data Lab, a digital medicine manufacturing research accelerator. 

Last year CMAC also received an additional £2.5 million for ‘Towards Net Zero Medicines’, an investment which aimed to transform the existing facility into a sustainable, digitalised ‘lab of the future’ for medicines manufacturing research. 

Three college students with a mechanics professor.

Photo: Edinburgh College

The latest report on staffing in Scotland’s colleges has been published today by the Scottish Funding Council. Now in its eighth year, the report covers the period from 2014 to 2023.

Today’s figures show that colleges employed 10,957 full-time equivalent (FTE) staff in 2022-23. Although this represents a 1.1 per cent decrease on the previous year, it is 1.5 per cent higher than the point at which SFC first started to collect the data. Within the total FTE figure, just under half (49 per cent) were teaching staff with the remaining 51 per cent employed in non-teaching roles.

The report’s annual look at teaching qualifications amongst college staff found that the proportion of full-time permanent teaching staff with a recognised teaching qualification has risen by almost two per cent since 2021-22.

The publication also covers the gender mix amongst college staff. According to the new figures, females accounted for 61 per cent of the full staff headcount in 2022-23 and 52 per cent of senior management staff.

The long-term trend points to an increasing age profile in college staff overall. The proportion of staff aged 51 and over has increased by 6.1 percentage points since 2014-15.

Full details are now available at College Staffing Data 2022-23.

Innovative people and partnerships in the world of business-academic collaborations were celebrated at the 9th Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards in Glasgow yesterday. 

The awards which are organised by SFC-funded Interface were held at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The judges awarded coveted trophies to winners across seven categories for their achievements in research and development between organisations, colleges and universities.  

Innovation Minister, Richard Lochhead, said:

“These awards highlight valuable collaborations in Scotland which are developing cutting-edge innovations to make a real difference to people’s lives. 

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting information exchange between businesses and academia. An example is our Inward Investment Catalyst Fund, which since its launch in 2021, has supported 25 businesses outside of Scotland to collaborate on projects with Scottish academic institutions, with an ambition of attracting inward investment.” 

Amelia Whitelaw, Director of Interface, added:

“The nomination process has surfaced some great examples of business-academic partnerships that demonstrate immense creativity, novel approaches and ingenuity taking place in all sectors of industry and in communities throughout Scotland.  

“Particularly strong this year are health and environmental developments, which push boundaries and will benefit many individuals and communities.”

Full details of yesterday’s winners are available on the Interface website.

Two female students smiling at each other. They are wearing Air Service Training uniform and are close to an airplane engine.

Photo: City of Glasgow College

A new report from the quality and improvement agency, Education Scotland, has found that colleges across the country are working well with industry to help their students move into employment. It also highlights colleges’ focus on local, regional and national needs. 

The report provides an overview of Education Scotland’s inspectors’ work with colleges over the academic year 2022-23. In her foreword to the report, Chief Inspector of Education, Janie McManus, praises the dedication and adaptability of colleges, saying this provides a strong platform for students to achieve and move forward to other things.  

The period the report covers means it is able to look at how colleges coped with the COVID-19 pandemic and worked to alleviate its effects on students. According to its findings, colleges offered newly enrolled students special support to help them gain confidence in their move to an unfamiliar learning environment. 

In its recommendations, the report points to the challenge of maintaining that support and continuing to look after students’ mental health and wellbeing. Barriers around disability, ethnicity and finance are also identified as areas in need of special focus. 

Jacqui Brasted, SFC’s Interim Director for Access, Learning & Outcomes welcomed the report and said:

“This report covers a period in which colleges were still managing the effects of the pandemic. It confirms that colleges were flexible and responsive in the way they adapted and that they worked hard to support students both during and after the COVID-19 emergency.  

“The report is clear about the need to learn lessons for the future. We understand that need and our strategic plan shows how we will work collectively to build a connected, agile and sustainable tertiary education system.” 

Janie McManus, HM Chief Inspector of Education, said:

“I am pleased to share our annual college sector overview report for the academic year 2022-2023. The report provides detailed observations gathered by HM Inspectors during their visits to Scotland’s colleges.

“During our visits we saw evidence of progress in a number of areas but we also found a number of aspects of college sector performance that need to improve. The overview report clearly sets out the sector’s strengths as well as recommendations for the sector to focus on over the coming year in order to make improvements across key areas.”

Photocollage of college students in different environments: workshops, library, socialising and hairdresser.

Photo (left to right): Newbattle Abbey College, UHI Perth, Fife College, City of Glasgow College

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has published its latest College Statistics report today. The report combines new data with information collected over the past ten years to provide an overview of Scotland’s colleges since 2013-14.

Amongst the findings of today’s report is a continuing increase in enrolments to college courses with a further rise of around 2.4% in 2022-23. The number of students on courses has also increased to 248,907.

The report also notes, however, that the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) places has fallen to its lowest level in the past decade. It suggests the pattern of fewer FTEs and more enrolments and a greater headcount may have been driven by more people signing up for part-time courses and a drop in enrolments for full-time study.

Also down is the proportion of 18 to 19 year olds in Scotland participating in full time college education. The reasons for this are likely to include a record proportion of school leavers entering employment and an increase in Scottish school leavers accepting places at Scottish universities.

Commenting on today’s report, Martin Boyle, SFC’s Director of Policy, Insight and Analytics, said:

“One of the strengths of colleges in Scotland is their ability to respond to change, and today’s report illustrates some underlying shifts in patterns of demand. With data now going back to 2013-14 we can see how these shifts look in relation to longer term trends and build towards an even more agile and responsive college sector in the future.”

A pioneering report investigating digital and blended learning in universities and colleges has been published today by four Scottish quality agencies. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA Scotland), Education Scotland, College Development Network (CDN) and sparqs have jointly collected and analysed information and made recommendations for future development.  

Focussing on first hand student experience, the report looks at what students want from blended learning and what approaches lead to the best outcomes. 

The work has been instigated by the Scottish Funding Council to help Scotland’s colleges and universities better understand the opportunities and the challenges presented by new technology. It is part of a wider two-year initiative aimed at the future delivery of effective and inclusive digital and blended learning.  

The researchers found the majority of learning in Scotland’s tertiary sector is now blended in some way, meaning it is already the norm and will continue to be so in the future. 

In sharing their thoughts on blended learning, learners stressed the importance of having a campus base for their studies. One college student interviewed for the report listed free breakfast, free toiletries, book-swaps, and free haircuts as part of the cost-of living crisis support available on their campus. Other students stressed the importance of interaction with fellow learners, lecturers, and other staff in creating a sense of belonging.  

The report also draws attention to the effects of digital poverty and recognises the efforts being made to address potential inequalities. 

According to the report’s findings, the most important consideration for the future of blended learning is achieving the right balance between its different components. Striving for equality of opportunity and creating a feeling of inclusion were also seen as crucial to success. 

SFC’s Chief Executive, Karen Watt said:

“Today’s report provides tertiary education in Scotland with the best understanding so far of what it takes to give students the best possible combination of remote and on-campus learning. It’s a nuanced picture but with a lot of common ground between colleges and universities. I’m very grateful to each of the organisations which brought their experience and expertise to this important piece of work.”

Kathryn O’Loan, Director, QAAScotland, said:

“It is clear blended learning is here to stay. The quality of the student and staff experience will be dependent on how effectively we get to grips with designing and managing a blended offer as a sector.  

“I am delighted QAA has played a significant role in this first multi-agency partnership to explore how practices and student experience across Scotland’s colleges and universities have developed in response to the pandemic and identify how we can enhance future provision.” 

Jonny Rees, Head of Professional Development at CDN, added:

“I am delighted that CDN has played a key role in this unique project, which explores how the pandemic shaped current practices in Scotland’s tertiary sector. 

“The college-based research has highlighted innovative approaches and diverse strategies to address various digital challenges across the sector to enhance the learning experience. Whilst there is a lot of work still to do, and a lot of barriers to overcome, the creativity and innovation demonstrate promising progress.”

Following today’s publication, the next steps will include a series of staff development workshops and the production of online resources for staff and students. 

The Future of Learning and Teaching: Defining and delivering an effective and inclusive digital/blended offering is now available on the SFC website.

Photocollage of the images used on the covers of SFC's Net Zero Framework for Action.

Photos (left to right): University of the Highlands and Islands, University of Glasgow, Fife College

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has agreed new funding for the EAUC, an organisation working in Scotland to put sustainability at the heart of tertiary education and research. 

The 2024-25 funding package of £147,000 will allow the EAUC to continue to support colleges and universities towards greater environmental sustainability. The organisation will use the money to build on the success of last year’s activities which saw over 500 people benefitting from events, training sessions and webinars. For 2023-24 the EAUC also produced a series of new resources including a pioneering climate risk register tool and a sustainability champions learning pack. 

The programme will continue to focus on supporting effective leadership and action to help Scotland’s colleges and universities respond to the climate and ecological emergencies. The next steps will be based around six key projects including a best-practice guide to developing a biodiversity strategy and a commuter emissions calculator.  

Welcoming the new round of funding, Matt Woodthorpe, Scotland Programme Manager at the EAUC, said:  

“The past 11 months have been an exceptionally busy time as EAUC Scotland has worked closely with sector staff and sector partners to develop new tools and resources, share knowledge, and advocate for effective sustainability leadership.  

“This is a critical time for sustainability in Scotland and we look forward to working with the college and university sector, SFC and wider partners to deliver long term environmental, social and economic benefits for individual FHE institutions and their staff and students, and in turn the communities they serve and Scotland as a whole through this ambitious new programme.” 

Martin Boyle, SFC’s Director of Policy, Insight and Analytics, said: 

“In funding the EAUC programme, we are again demonstrating our determination to support progress towards a more sustainable future. EAUC Scotland does an incredible job of bringing together staff and students, colleges and universities, teaching and research to share best practice and work collaboratively to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies. 

“Following the success of last year’s programme, this year’s activities are equally progressive and ambitious, and I am delighted that we are able to support them through further investment.” 

Photocollage of students in different environments: workshops, lab, socialising, playing an instrument and doing field research.

Photo: City of Glasgow College, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, University of Aberdeen, UHI Moray, University of the Highland and Islands.

At the end of last year it was confirmed that the Gaelic language immersion year pilot at the University of Glasgow was being made permanent with a long-term funding commitment from the College of Arts & Humanities at the University of Glasgow.

The Gaelic with Immersion Programme was offered to students, initially as a three-year pilot project with financial support from the Scottish Funding Council.

The programme has been highly successful, with students continuing to employment in Gaelic education, management, administration, and the creative arts.

SFC is committed to the support and development of the Gaelic language and, as a major national public body in Scotland, has the potential to make a significant contribution to Gaelic learning and research in Scotland’s colleges and universities.

Gillebrìde MacMillan, Senior Lecturer, Celtic and Gaelic and Principal Investigator of the pilot phase of the Gaelic Immersion Programme, said:

“The Gaelic with Immersion Programme at The University of Glasgow is a hugely important step in the development of Gaelic language provision in Scotland. Students at Glasgow can now learn Gaelic using immersion principles. The course also develops opportunities for placements with Gaelic organisations and schools. Importantly, the course has developed strong links with Ceòlas Uibhist and our students have the opportunity for a three week immersion experience in Uist as part of their studies.

“The programme would not have been possible without the three year funding from The Scottish Funding Council for the initial pilot stage. Recently, the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Glasgow announced that long-term university funding had been confirmed for the Gaelic with Immersion Programme, establishing the programme as an integral part of Celtic & Gaelic’s diverse range of programme offerings.”

Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards trophies.

The people and partnerships behind ground-breaking innovations were in the spotlight this week with the unveiling of the shortlist for the 2024 Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards.

Organised by business-academic matchmaking organisation Interface, the awards celebrate successful partnerships at the cutting-edge of research and development. The partnerships involve universities, colleges and research institutions collaborating with businesses and other organisations to change lives in Scotland and beyond.

Applications can come from any of the partners who are asked to demonstrate a positive impact on the economy, society, and the environment.

This year’s awards ceremony will take place at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow on 14 March, when the winners will be presented with awards in seven categories.

The full list of finalists can be found on the Interface website.

A group of three students at the top of stairs. They look at the horizon and carry books and folders.

Photo: University of the West of Scotland

Figures out today from the universities admissions service, UCAS, show that 40,760 Scots had applied to start a degree course at a Scottish university by the annual January deadline; a 3% increase on the position this time last year.

Contributing to the rise was a 0.4 percentage point growth in those applying to university from Scotland’s most deprived areas, marking a further step towards fair access to higher education.

The continuing strong demand for Scottish university places amongst Scottish school leavers also played a part in the increase. This year’s application figure for 18 year olds and under living in Scotland is 20,550, the second highest for almost a decade.

The report suggests the number of international students applying to Scottish universities from outside the European Union has levelled off over the last few years with the application numbers for 2024-25 remaining similar to last year. Meanwhile, the number of people applying from within the European Union is down by 5%.

Overall, the total number applying for places has decreased this year for universities both north and south of the Border, down 1.9% in Scotland and 0.7% in England. Universities in Wales and Northern Ireland have seen small increases in applicants compared with 2023-24.

The full 2024 cycle applicant figures for the January deadline are now available on the UCAS website.

Winning Students 100 was launched at the University of Stirling.

Winning Students 100 was launched at the University of Stirling.

Scottish student athletes will be able to continue to combine their college or university studies with training for sporting success thanks to funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and sportscotland.

Winning Students was established with SFC funding in 2008 and saw over 1,700 scholarships awarded during its first phase. Well known athletes who have benefited from the scheme include Olympic medallists Laura Muir, Duncan Scott, Vicky Wright and Seonaid McIntosh.

Now, the programme is set to continue until 2028 and is being relaunched as Winning Students 100. The newly-branded initiative will provide athletes with grants of up to £3,000 and offer them additional support such as academic flexibility. Also new under Winning Students 100 is a hardship fund offering additional support to eligible student athletes.

106 scholarships have been awarded for 2023-24 across 28 different sports and 21 universities and colleges. New scholars for the revamped programme include current Olympic champion, Hailey Duff, Paralympic medallist, Lewis Stewart and under 23 European 10,000 metre record holder, Megan Keith – one of Scottish athletics’ leading prospects.

Commenting on the impact of Winning Students 100 on her sporting and academic endeavours, Megan, said:

“I really appreciate the generous support from Winning Students 100 for the upcoming year. In what is looking like an exciting year of competitions, the scholarship will help fund the travel required to train and compete to the best of my ability”

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

“Having funded the Winning Students programme from the start, we’re incredibly proud it has helped so many people to be successful college or university students alongside developing a career in sport. The achievements of previous Winning Students in life and in sport speak volumes for the benefits of the programme, and I wish the new scholars every success.”

Photocollage of researchers in different environments such as: workshops, labs and conferences.

Photos (left to right): University of Aberdeen, University of the Highlands and Islands, University of Glasgow

Scotland’s universities are set to benefit from an additional injection of research funding to the value of £5.8m. The additional funding was announced by Minister for Higher and Further Education Graeme Dey at Edinburgh Napier University on 7 February.

Recognising that university research and knowledge exchange directly impact the quality of teaching, universities will be asked to direct this additional funding towards a range of research and innovation activity that supports teaching, including but not limited to:

Welcoming the announcement, SFC Director of Research and Innovation, Helen Cross, said:

“We are delighted to be supporting Scotland’s universities with additional funding for research. We recognise the interdependencies between teaching and research and therefore look forward to seeing the outputs from this additional funding and how individual institutions will put it to best use based on their individual missions and priorities.”

Professor Stephen Decent Universities Scotland Research, Knowledge and Exchange committee Convener said:

“Scottish Universities contribute significantly to the economy, and we welcome this strategic decision from the Scottish Government to pass the Regional Innovation Fund onto the sector in recognition of that vital work. This investment will also provide our universities more opportunities to support the Scottish Government’s Innovation Strategy, giving them an important advantage in research and innovation.”

Full details on institutions’ individual allocations.

Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director at Converge

Converge, Scotland’s leading entrepreneurial development programme for universities and research institutes, has officially opened for applications to its 2024 programme.

More than £280,000 in funding and support is available to the winners and runners-up across four challenge categories; Converge, Create Change, KickStart, and Net Zero. Those who make the cut will also enjoy access to the advice, networking events, and training that make Converge a highly regarded company creation initiative.

Part-funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Converge has supported more than 670 people to launch more than 420 companies over the last 13 years and has raised £360 million in follow-on funding along the way. Companies formed by Converge alumni have an 80% survival rate after three years.

Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, executive director of Converge, said:

“Converge is committed to empowering and supporting the next generation of diverse founders and innovators who are driven by purpose and passion to make a difference in the world.

“We take a collaborative, ecosystem approach – working closely with universities, research institutes, investors, corporate partners and other organisations to help these brave individuals turn their dreams into reality. By backing talented, mission-led founders and connecting them to the full range of Scotland’s entrepreneurial support system, we can have an even greater collective impact.

“Whether it’s a climate-focused business like Robocean who won the 2022 Converge Net Zero Challenge or a company addressing other societal needs, our goal is to foster more inclusive innovation and harness Scotland’s spirit of invention to build a better future.”

Fair Access

Scotland’s Commissioner for Fair Access, Professor John McKendrick, has published his first annual report since taking up the post last year. In his report, Professor McKendrick considers how the framework for promoting fair access can be further strengthened.

Fair access is a commitment to ensure that learners from Scotland’s most disadvantaged backgrounds are able to realise their potential through higher education. The aim is that by 2030, students from the 20% most deprived areas should represent 20% of entrants to higher education.

The report confirms the 2021 interim target of 16% was met but also notes a slight fall from 16.7% to 16.5% in the proportion of entrants to Scottish higher education institutions from the most deprived areas last year. The focus is now on the 2026 goal of 18%.

The Commissioner aims to produce a second report later this year following the publication of the Scottish Funding Council’s 2022-23 Report on Widening Access. The SFC report includes information on students progressing onto their second year of study. As part of a wider call for a better understanding of students’ experiences and outcomes the Commissioner has called for future reports to track progression rates for all years of study and changes in the use of the SIMD20 measure.

The Commissioner recognised the success of Scotland’s Community of Access and Participation Practitioners (SCAPP), established in 2019 to support the professional development of staff working in widening access teams, and asked the Scottish Funding Council to commit to more secure and longer-term funding, It is funded by SFC alongside the National School Programme and the Scottish Wider Access Programme.

In a further recommendation, the Commissioner asks SFC and its partners to look into creating a new web-based resource to give prospective students an easy and accessible way of finding the support they need to help them into higher education.

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said,

“We welcome the Commissioner’s report and recognise the important work that takes place in universities and colleges across Scotland in creating fairer access to higher education.

“While progress has been made, it is also clear there is still work to do. The Scottish Funding Council will continue to play a full role in tackling this collective challenge, with the Commissioner, the universities and colleges we fund, and wider stakeholders, in order to support the achievement of the 20% target by 2030.”

Higher education – renewing the alliance for fair access: annual report 2024 is published on the Scottish Government website.

Collage of students

The Scottish Funding Council’s Regional Tertiary Pathfinder programme has supported the development of an interactive map of digital skills courses in the South of Scotland.

The South of Scotland’s Digital Pathfinder, a collaborative project between Dumfries and Galloway College and Borders College under SFC’s Regional Tertiary Pathfinders, has developed an innovative interactive map showcasing the digital skills provision available across the region. Employers in the South of Scotland are now able to find digital skills training with just a few clicks thanks to this investment from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the work of Digital Pathfinder stakeholders.

The SFC Regional Tertiary Pathfinder programme has been working closely with regional partners in the South of Scotland to test new ways of responding to priorities for the regional and national economy. These include collaborations between colleges, universities, regional stakeholders and employers. As a product of this initiative, the digital skills map showcases the excellent work being done.

With an enviable choice of digital skills training and development at many levels, South of Scotland employers can have difficulty in selecting the right resources for their businesses. The Digital Skills Provision Map makes things much simpler and easier to navigate by bringing everything together in one place.

The map has been created jointly by Dumfries and Galloway and Borders colleges working with organisations including Business Gateway, Skills Development Scotland and South of Scotland Enterprise. It will be updated every year so employers always have access to the most up-to-date information available.

Jacqui Brasted, Interim Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes at the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“Digital skills are a vital part of businesses’ ability to increase their productivity and remain competitive. I am delighted that our funding, which is part of our wider Pathfinder programme, has been instrumental in creating a great new resource for businesses in the South of Scotland.”

Jane Morrison-Ross, Chief Executive Officer, South of Scotland Enterprise, said:

“This new Digital Skills Provision Map is an excellent tool for businesses and enterprises in the South of Scotland to access the right digital training for their staff.

“The launch of the new pathway map has been a collaborative effort amongst our region’s skills providers, with the collective aim of helping people across the South to grow and thrive, both now and in the future.”

Earlier this year the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) announced a long term investment plan focused on innovation, jobs and growth in key areas of Scotland’s future economy.

The announcement followed an assessment of the national innovation centre programme which was established by SFC in 2013. Based on the assessment panel’s recommendations, four of the centres will be supported by up to £2m of SFC funds annually for up to a decade to cement their place at the heart of Scottish innovation and knowledge exchange.

SFC is working with the remaining innovation centres on shorter-term transitional funding as they move to new models of support, including from the private sector.

Scottish Innovation Centres, which have been described as world leading hi-tech organisations, are partnerships between SFC, the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and they have backing from industry.

Innovation Centres add value through collaborative projects, consortia building, secondments and industrial studentships as well as providing spaces for collaborative work and shared access to equipment. Innovation centres also support skills and training to develop the next generation of researchers and knowledge exchange practitioners through masters and post-doctoral level provision .

Commenting on the announcement, Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“The move to long term investment builds on a decade of astute funding that has produced significant dividends in terms of new products, new processes and new jobs. It has also created valuable relationships between universities, colleges and industry. Each of the current innovation centres will benefit from this unique legacy.

“Data; Digital Health & Care; biotech; and innovation for a zero carbon built environment will benefit from long-term public investment focussed on opportunities for creating future prosperity.”

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has today (4 January 2024) published two reports that provide an aggregate picture of the financial health of Scotland’s colleges and universities respectively. Based on their annual accounts for academic years 2020-21 and 2021-22 and latest forecasts up to 2025-26 for colleges and 2024-25 for universities, the reports provide detailed information at sector level on the operating position, cash balances, sources of income, expenditure, liquidity, cash flow, borrowing and capital expenditure.

Both colleges and universities continue to operate in an extremely tight fiscal environment. While neither sector is homogenous, and the forecasts represent a snapshot in time, both sectors face similar risks to their financial health, including:

SFC will continue to monitor and assess the financial health (sustainability and viability) of colleges and universities through regular engagement and analysis of financial returns.

Commenting on the reports, SFC Chief Executive, Karen Watt said:

“While these reports represent a snapshot in time, we recognise that colleges and universities are operating in an extremely tight fiscal environment. We will increase levels of engagement and monitoring activity for those institutions facing risks to their financial health and work with them to understand and assess plans to bring them back to a sustainable position.”