Popular courses delivered across Scotland’s further education sector could face the axe as strict new immigration rules take their toll, Chief Executive of Scotland’s Colleges, John Henderson, has warned.
Speaking to Holyrood, Henderson said a shake-up spearheaded by the UK Border Agency (UKBA), which has left fewer than half of Scotland’s colleges able to recruit international students long-term, threatens to spill over into provision for home students.
Under changes enforced ahead of the new academic year, colleges throughout the UK must meet six mandatory requirements to hold Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status, a classification required to enrol students from outside Europe.
However, a mere 17 out of 41 members enlisted with Scotland’s Colleges achieved the accreditation by an April 30 cut-off date with a further 14 only able to recruit on a limited basis, leaving a number of institutions unable to accept non-EEA students in August thanks to a mandatory sixmonth wait until an application can be resubmitted.
Aside from the financial implications a loss of income from international tuition is set to have at a time of increasingly tight funding for the FE sector, Henderson has now intimated students from across Scotland could face the potential fallout as programmes come under strain.
He told Holyrood: “Some colleges don’t seek to recruit internationally, but for those who do, it is an important part of their business and reputation. The risk remains in the current rules that due to the percentage based compliance, colleges can see their licences being revoked due to a change in circumstances among a small number of students – which is always to be expected.
“For international students, the experience of studying in Scotland should be excellent and not subject to uncertainty. There is also potential impact on home students as specialised courses that have international demand may be at risk if there are insufficient numbers.”
College funding in the Scottish Government budget is to be reduced by £74m, from £545m this year to £471m in 2014-15, amid increasing emphasis on the sector to pursue a regionalisation agenda that will culminate in more mergers.