The recently-merged Edinburgh College has been hardest hit by the Scottish Government’s college funding cuts, a new report revealed today.
Audit Scotland’s analysis showed that the 2012-13 funding for Edinburgh College was about nine per cent lower than the combined funding for the three previously separate colleges – Telford, Stevenson and Jewel & Esk – the previous year.
The report said Edinburgh was one of only three of the 13 new merged regional colleges which would have reported a deficit for 2011-12.
It said Edinburgh’s deficit would have been £200,000 because Telford’s deficit of £1.1 million outweighed the combined surpluses of Jewel & Esk (£600,000) and Stevenson (£300,000).
The report said college income across the country had fallen by nine per cent since 2010-11, with a reduction in grant funding of £56 million from the Scottish Funding Council, the Scottish Government’s education funding body. Audit Scotland said the cash cuts had led to staff reductions and fewer student places, especially for part-time students and older people. It warned further savings will be needed.
The report also confirmed merging the Edinburgh colleges had cost £17m rather than the original £14.7m estimate.
Kelly Parry, president of Edinburgh College Students’ Association, said the report highlighted the real concerns students had about cuts to colleges and how colleges were reacting to the cuts.
She said: “We need Scottish Government funding for Edinburgh College protected and ultimately improved, but at the same time we must also see our college protecting their students and staff from the cuts.
“If we are going to make it through this economic downturn and succeed despite the austerity policies of the Westminster government, we will need well-funded colleges to provide new opportunities for all kinds of students, young and old. The Scottish Government has promised no further cuts to colleges in the coming year, and we’ll be holding them to their word.”
Labour education spokeswoman, Lothian MSP Kezia Dugdale accused the SNP of a relentless attack on colleges. She said: “They forced reorganisation on the colleges and slashed their budgets at the same time. It’s no wonder the consequence is a reduction in places and teaching staff.”
A Scottish Government spokesman claimed the report highlighted the strength of the college sector, with reserves rising to a record £214m. He said individual funding for colleges is allocated on an annual basis by the Scottish Funding Council.
Statistics last month showed Edinburgh College lost 446 staff through voluntary redundancy and natural wastage – workers who were not replaced.