COURSES at Edinburgh College are set to be cut, merged or shrunk under plans aimed at helping the institution break even and ensuring it does not slip further into the red.
The college has unveiled a new transformation plan as staff battle to reverse a £600,000 deficit.
College bosses said the existing range of courses was too wide, creating unnecessary “overlap” and small classes that were not sustainable.
They want to boost capacity in areas of “significant unmet demand” while implementing reductions where student uptake is low and job prospects poor. It is not yet known how many and which individual courses would be affected.
Union chiefs have criticised the plans, warning that the college is sliding “into crisis” after they obtained data suggesting course enrolments have plunged since the last academic year.
However, college bosses have indicated they hope to maintain the existing spread of subject areas, increasing opportunities for staff re-training and minimising the need for redundancies.
Principal Annette Bruton said: “We’re reshaping to make sure that we improve student employment possibilities, get more students in and ensure we get students into the right courses. We’ve had very high demand for certain courses and we’ve had to turn students away. In the past, we’ve capped those courses and what we’re saying is that we’re going to do more of those and less of something else.”
The plan has been designed in response to new Scottish Funding Council (SFC) policies which impose caps on the amount of money provided for each student.
College bosses said this made it vital to recruit as many students as possible, amid a risk that failure to meet targets could result in the SFC “clawing back” funding and potentially exposing the institution to additional financial pressure of up to £2 million.
The most up-to-date figures show there are 15,256 students currently attending college courses – 316 fewer than at the same point last year.
Preparations are under way to recruit an estimated 3500 additional students before the start of the January semester.
Leaders at the college branch of the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, have warned the institution is in “meltdown”.
They have called for suspension of the application process and course review until negotiations are complete.
A spokesman welcomed the college’s “belated” recognition of the recruitment issue but added: “There’s inevitably the fear that axing courses means axing jobs.”
Student association vice-president Jenni Behan said: “Since the Scottish Government embarked on its college merger programme, colleges have suffered crippling cuts. Edinburgh College has been hit incredibly hard.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Funding Council said: “We support Edinburgh College’s plans to tailor its courses to meet changing patterns of demand.”