THE principal of Adam Smith College has hit out at rapidly declining funding for further education, saying government cuts are “too much, too fast”.
Dr Craig Thomson slammed the cuts while addressing this year’s college graduates, staff, Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance and Mid-Fife MSP Claire Baker at the graduation ceremony on Thursday night.
According to the principle, the most recent cuts will see colleges lose around a quarter of their funding, and will result in a reduction in support for college-based vocational education in Fife of between £7m and £10m between now and 2015.
In his damning speech, he said: “The uncertain future of the college will be framed significantly by the Scottish budget announcements of two weeks ago - a budget that signalled deep cuts to the college sector - cuts that will limit our capacity for change and development.
“Cuts at the level being planned will have a serious negative impact on the recovery of the Scottish economy and the development of the Fife economy. They will slow and inhibit the development of new industries such as renewables and they will make it much more difficult, for example, for the economy to deal with the impact of an ageing workforce.”
Dr Thomson said he was aware of declining public funding across the board, and was not making an argument for colleges to be immune from this, but added:
“Two main points on this; my first is simply to do with the depth of the cuts and their speed. They are too much, too fast and they remove our ability to manage change positively and effectively.
“My second point has to do with fairness. Around 20 per cent of higher education students in Scotland study in colleges. While much has been made of protecting higher education in Scotland, this protection has only been afforded to universities. Funding for higher education programmes in colleges is being cut this year, cut next year, cut the following year and cut the year following that. This is incredibly bad news for Fife.” According to Dr Thomson, one in four school leavers in Fife who go on to higher education study at Adam Smith, in comparison to one in 40 who go on to St Andrews University. This, he said, shows how uneven the playingfields of higher education are.
However, despite the cuts, Dr Thomson gave an assurance: “At Adam Smith College, we will work - no matter how difficult the financial circumstances - to create opportunities, develop the economy and support our communities. That’s our job and we will stick to it.”
Dr Thomson also encouraged the graduates to challenge their future. He said: “So challenging times, but, let me assure those of you about to graduate that these are also times of opportunity. You enter the world of your tomorrows at a remarkable time in this country. A time of challenge and change.
“My main message is a simple one. You have the opportunity of creating, not simply accepting, the world of your tomorrows.
“So, use your talents and skills and continue to learn. Our success as a county and as a country is simply an aggregate of the success of each and every one of us – so be ambitious for yourself and the same time, be ambitious for Fife and for Scotland.”