Funding will not cover mergers

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A £15 MILLION fund proposed by the Scottish Government to offset the cost of college regionalisation and mergers would not cover the expenses incurred, says Gary Paterson of Angus College Students’ Association.

He stresses that the cost of regionalisation and mergers can be very substantial indeed, as rebranding, reshuffling and regrouping are particularly expensive.

And he believes that the cost of this would add to the already introduced cuts which are draining much needed money from already troubled budgets for student places, courses and staff.

He continued: “The Scottish Government’s plan to inject £15 million into the regionalisation process can be welcomed to an extent. It should help to divert some of the cost burden at the expense of courses and opportunities already at risk despite the regionalisation crisis.

“However, the affect of £15 million spread across 43 colleges will result in little support on a local level, only around £300,000. If Angus College and Dundee College were to merge, for example, this might pay for little more than a structure or grouping change. The affects of the current situation facing students are minimal to say the least.”

He went on: “The Scottish people have united to convey their concerns over large proposed cuts in the further education sector along with the drastic implications for colleges and communities up and down the country.

“This is a welcome first step in ensuring a better deal for colleges and communities. It is good to see the Scottish Government begin to acknowledge the concerns of students and the wider Scottish public. However, the regionalisation fund still does not address the cuts and risks facing colleges.”

Gary concluded: “There is still a lot more to be achieved and there is still a lot more the Scottish Government can do to reverse their plans for education in Scotland. We need them to keep up the pace and focus on providing funding for comprehensive education, providing good quality courses and opportunities for all ages, backgrounds and communities.”

The trade union Unison has also been campaigning against college cuts and recently gathered 2,000 signatures on a petition protesting against the drop in funding.

Last week it was handed over to the Scottish Parliament and Dougie Deans, Unison further education representative at Angus College, is also against college mergers.

He said: “With this further reduction in funding it now emerges that the 41 colleges are to be regionalised which means merged. Dress it up in any language you want mergers equals job losses.

“Mike Russell announced he is to put £15 million back into further education from the £74 million he has already taken, this equates to moving the deckchairs on the Titanic.”

Councillor Peter Nield, convener of Angus Council’s education committee, commented: “The evidence for college mergers is not as promising or as sound as Education Secretary Mike Russell would have everyone believe. A quantitive analysis of college size and performance shows there is absolutely no relationship between size and educational success. Equally there is no evidence of size and financial health.

“Further investigation of merged colleges suggest a reduction in education attainment and no change or increase in costs. In 2005 six colleges were merged into three. At 14 per cent of the total FE budget they still take exactly the same share of funding today as then.

“Of course I support mergers where, like in schools, we have to demonstrate to HMIe or Education Scotland as it is now called that there is educational advantage. For college mergers as with universities this has not been substantiated. Indeed the opposite is true.”