Monday, 26 March 2012

FE cuts

A recent Freedom of Information request by the EIS has added to the information previously collated by UNISON on the impact of cuts on Scotland's colleges. The Scottish Government cut funding by £68million and now 23 colleges out of 38 have cut courses and almost 600 teaching staff have been made redundant.  

Budget cuts are pushing colleges into mergers which will impact further on courses and jobs. A key value of college courses is that they can undertake them close to where they  live. This cuts down on travel and childcare costs: key barriers to unemployed people and those on low incomes accessing and completing courses. Travelling long distances also adds to childcare costs as children have to be looked after longer. While regionalisation or merging to create “super colleges” may save money (and that is yet to be proved) their role in supporting people to get the qualifications they need to find and keep work will suffer.

Courses being cut across Scotland include vocational courses like aeronautical and aircraft engineering, computer animation, digital gaming green-keeping, and horticulture. The EIS found that music law and business courses were also being cut. Some colleges are also reducing opening hours at a time when the Roe Report called for longer hours to offer more flexible learning opportunities to help learners combine work and study.

We have high rates of unemployment, in particular youth unemployment. These budget cuts mean opportunities for people to improve their skills and qualifications (or retrain) in order to find decent work. This also means there are fewer workers available for employers to grow their businesses creating  more jobs. These cuts are causing pain now and will make it harder for Scotland to escape recession.

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