Borders College facing redundancies after £750,000 slashed from budget

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BORDERS College is facing staff cuts “across the board” after £750,000 was wiped from its budget for next year.

Principal Liz McIntyre confirmed the Galashiels-based college is reviewing its services following a 10.3 per cent cash reduction from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

But Mrs McIntyre says there are no intentions to slash student places for 2011/2012.

A spokesperson for the college added that the number of job losses among its 300 employees is not yet known but would occur “across the board” rather than in one department.

Borders College, which also has bases at Hawick, Duns, Newtown St Boswells, Jedburgh and Peebles, will receive a student support allocation of £1.679million and £6.804million for teaching and fee waivering in 2011/12 from the SFC.

Those figures are unchanged from 2010/11, but the institution will lose more than 10 per cent in funding from other adjustments, in line with savings being made to all of Scotland’s colleges.

Mrs McIntyre described the budget as a “challenging reduction”.

“This level of budget reduction in a single year has challenged our organisation to be both innovative and creative in reviewing our services and the way in which they are delivered,” she added.

“The college is busy reviewing its curriculum offer, the services it provides to partners and the efficiency with which it delivers programmes and supporting functions, and this may lead to a readjustment of the staffing resources required.

“Every attempt will be made by the college to reduce any staffing using voluntary means but we cannot rule out the possibility that we may be facing some compulsory redundancies.”

Mrs McIntyre continued: “In the meantime, it is our intention, to maintain the level of student places available to individuals in the Scottish Borders who wish to study at Borders College next year and our applications process for next year is now under way.”

Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP John Lamont demanded extra funds be found for Borders College from Holyrood.

Mr Lamont said: “The reality is that with £750,000 coming out of their budget, there will need to be significant changes to balance the books.

“However, it is my view that we should be investing in our colleges so that our young people have the necessary skills for when the economy recovers.”

And Mr Lamont claims the Scottish Conservatives have, since 2007, unsuccessfully demanded the SNP Government take “necessary steps” to secure the financial future of further and higher education institutions in Scotland.

“It is imperative, not only for the future of aspiring students, but also for the economic and cultural future of our country, that additional funds are secured for both the further and higher education sectors,” said Mr Lamont.

“The SNP Government must secure the financial future of Borders College and other colleges and universities across Scotland.”

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, a retired college lecturer himself, said the cuts were “sad news for Gala and the Borders”.

He added: “I always think education is such an easy thing to cut but such a short-term thing.

“£750,000 is a massive amount of money and obviously cuts are inevitable. Young people seem to get such a raw deal from society.

“It is time we reflected that now we are in a period of stagnant growth. We should be preparing for the day when we are beginning to grow again and that involves training a workforce fit for the jobs which we all hope will come.

“The cost of giving our young people no hope is incalculable and is certainly way above the figures of money we think we are saving.”

Meanwhile, Heriot-Watt University, which shares the Galashiels Campus with Borders College, is facing even greater budget reductions.

It will receive £21.764million for teaching from the SFC – a 10.9 per cent fall – while Heriot-Watt’s grant to encourage part-time classes and enrolment has dropped by 28.9 per cent to £212,000.