Border College chief fears further job losses as a result of funding cuts

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BORDERS College principal Liz McIntyre has told the Scottish Parliament that jobs and student places could be lost in the further education sector due to funding cuts.

The college, which has three main sites across the region, was forced to make 22 redundancies during 2010/11 and had £750,000 wiped from its 2011/12 budget.

And speaking to Holyrood’s cross-party education and culture committee last month, Ms McIntyre feared a further £6.6million would be slashed from the teaching budget for Scotland’s colleges in 2013/14.

During questioning by MSPs, she said: “We could spend a significant amount of time debating the resources, but the important thing, from the colleges’ perspective, is that there will be even less money than before and that the reduction comes on the heels of significant cuts in previous years.

“We were looking — perhaps over-optimistically — for a reversal of the trend, but that has not happened. The cut is still on top of cuts and it is likely to have a similar impact to the cuts of previous years.”

When asked later about how confident she was that compulsory redundancies would be avoided, Ms McIntyre added: “The current level of cuts for next year will still have an impact on colleges, on student places and, potentially, on jobs.”

Ms McIntyre also questioned the Opportunities for All programme which guarantees 16 to 19-year-olds in Scotland a place in education or training to enhance their prospects of finding a job.

She told MSPs: “The problem that we have at the moment is that the college learning programme’s format is built around teaching employability skills without the substantive qualification.

“A model that combines the substantive qualification with employability skills would ultimately be better.

“Because we have had cuts in college funding, we have to choose one or the other; it is quite hard to find both.”

Ms McIntyre admitted that spaces on Opportunities for All and modern apprenticeship places had increased in the last year, but added: “My point is that we have to understand exactly what we mean by a place.

“Places are not all the same. A college place funded by the funding council for a substantive qualification is not the same as a place on a college learning programme.

“They are significantly different and they have significantly different outcomes.”

Reacting this week, South of Scotland MSP Jim Hume said: “The SNP have been handed a stark warning from the principal of Borders College that their cuts to college funding could have a damaging impact on jobs and prospects for young people.

“At that same committee meeting last month, there was unanimity across a range of business organisations about the importance of colleges to improving skills and employability.

“The SNP needs to think again and come forward with a better deal for our colleges and students in the forthcoming budget.”

The Scottish Government is expected to announce its allocation to the Scottish Funding Council for the next academic year in January 2013.