Kirkcaldy MP makes call to speak up over £10m college cuts

0111026 SSFF stock asc 'stock photo Kirkcaldy - adam smith college, kirkcaldy
0111026 SSFF stock asc 'stock photo Kirkcaldy - adam smith college, kirkcaldy
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Fifers have been urged to speak out against massive cuts to our colleges’ budgets.

Adam Smith, Carnegie and Elmwood Colleges are set to lose £10m in funding by 2015.

Now Kirkcaldy MP Gordon Brown has called for a Fife wide protest against the cuts which he fears will cause significant damage to the region’s economic prospects and threaten student numbers.

Calling for ‘‘a fair deal for Fife’’ he also urged the business community to voice its concerns over the threat to training courses.

Mr Brown, Chancellor of Adam Smith College, said: ‘‘The college has already seen a 12 per cent reduction in real terms this year.

‘‘And the scale of the cuts has become clear as Fife college funding of £50m is being cut to £40m by 2015.

‘‘I am deeply concerned at the potential damage to student numbers and the impact it could have on training for employers.’’

Fife-wide Adam Smith College – the biggest in Fife - has an intake of nearly 25,000 students and runs courses from entry to degree level.

But it receives half the funding of a university for a student’s higher education work.

Mr Brown added: ‘‘Of Fife school leavers going into higher education, 25 per cent go to Adam Smith, and only 2.5 per cent go to St Andrews University - but it is Adam Smith that is seeing its funding per student slashed.

‘‘If the Scottish Government is to honour its pledge that student numbers will not be cut they it will have to stop taking millions from Fife’s colleges.

‘‘I will continue to press for a fair deal for Fife.’’

We can’t deliver it all by savings alone

COLLEGES are facing up to cuts which are even greater than those hitting local authorities.

Adam Smith College saw a 10 per cent cash cut last year and another 10 per cent will follow going into 2013.

That’s £2m each year removed from the spend on education and training.

Right now it is waiting on the fine detail in the Budget from John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary, which is due next month, but the reality is a further contraction of the funding available.

And the great fear is it cannot all be delivered through savings.

Dr Craig Thomson, principal, warned: ‘‘We have to be realistic. We recognise the need for efficiencies and we are already ahead of the game- we’re more efficient that most colleges in Scotland.

‘‘But we cannot recover sums of this scale just through efficiencies.

‘’We have maintained a steady student base of around 25,000, but you cannot keep taking such large amounts out of funding without having a negative impact on the range of courses and the support that is provided.

‘‘The extent of the cuts in colleges is way beyond those in local authorities and other parts of the public sector.

‘‘We are concerned at that the extent and speed of the cuts. They will damage opportunities for people in Fife who need re-training and development - people who want to learn new skills and get back into work. Colleges are the bridge that makes this possible.’’

While funding cuts are top of the agenda, there is also a debate over reform - and one supported fully by the college.

That could mean all Fife colleges coming together - formally or informally - to share facilities and skills. The work is already underway, and has been for some time.

‘‘We welcome the reform agenda,’’ added Dr Thomson.

‘‘We will create new methods of working and we are in pro-active discussions with the Scottish Government on the issue.

‘‘The issue of regionalisation is central to the debate and we have made it clear we are strong supporters of it. We are the largest college and have a key role to play.’’