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Income falling for Scottish colleges

Scotland’s college merger programme could lead to further cuts, Audit Scotland has warned in a new report.

The sector’s income fell by 9% between 2011 and 2012, and more savings will be required for “the foreseeable future”. The merger, which will reduce the number of incorporated colleges in Scotland from 37 to 21 by the end of the year, aims to protect full-time further education places.

The policy has been opposed by Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, who said the move was flawed.

Audit Scotland cautioned that prioritising learning for young people could limit opportunities for over 24s wishing to study. The report found that the number of full-time staff in the sector fell from 12,800 to 11,600 in 2012.

Scotland's Auditor General, Caroline Gardner, added: “Income has fallen significantly and this will continue for the foreseeable future. Colleges will have to manage these funding reductions and changes in structure and status while meeting local communities' demands for further education.

“The Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council will need to assess and manage the impact of colleges becoming public bodies on their finances. They will also need to monitor the savings and other benefits from mergers, and the impact that prioritising younger students and full-time courses has on the opportunities for older people.”

The Scottish Government said: “The report confirms colleges are continuing to deliver our commitment to maintain student numbers with full-time equivalent student numbers remaining steady.

“This strong record of achievement is a result of the Scottish government's commitment to our colleges.

“They are at the heart of our aims for economic growth and this is reflected in the addition of £61m to the sector earlier this year, providing for an unprecedented funding 'floor' of £522m this and next year.”

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