£46m cut to colleges and universities ‘regrettable’ says minister
The further and higher education minister has said the decision to reverse an uplift to college and university budgets was “regrettable”.
Graeme Dey said the cash, which was announced in the budget last December, was being redirected “principally” towards the teacher pay deal.
Former deputy first minister John Swinney announced the college sector would receive an extra £26m in 2023/24, while universities would get £20m.
The U-turn was announced at the start of this month “to meet other priorities”.
Dey told the parliament’s education committee: “It is regrettable that we’re not in a position to provide the additional money that we had indicated we would to colleges and universities. That is what we wanted to do. But this is the reality that we’re operating in and we have to deal with the situation as it exists.”
The pay deal agreed between government, council umbrella body Cosla and teaching unions will see most teachers receive a 14.6 per cent pay increase by January 2024.
The total cost of the deal is £188m. Dey told MSPs that finding the rest of the money for the deal within the education portfolio was still a “work in progress”.
The day after the announcement, City of Glasgow College announced plans to cut 100 jobs to tackle a £6bn deficit. It blamed the decision on a “substantial real-terms” cut to college funding.
Conservative education spokesperson Stephen Kerr accused the government of a “hatchet job” on colleges.
Kerr said: “The number of people studying in our colleges in the 16 years of this SNP government has gone down 33 per cent and the cost of funding every place has gone down, in real terms, 10 per cent. These are answers that you gave to parliamentary colleagues.
“This is a hatchet job on the college sector. How can the college sector do the job that we all know it needs to do when it’s the victim of a government hatchet job over 16 years?”
Dey replied that there was “lots of hyperbole” in Kerr’s statement, adding that the government was having to make difficult decisions on how to spent its finite resources.
Kerr urged the government to “open the books” to allow opposition members a closer look at the numbers.
Asked by SNP MSP Bill Kidd if colleges would be a priority if the financial situation changed, Dey said: “I would say colleges would be a priority for us because, moving forward, colleges will be at the very heart of what we’re going to be doing.
“I entirely recognise the challenges that colleges are presented with beyond the £26m and from my perspective they would be a priority if and when an opportunity arose to better support them.”
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