A new report from UNISON on the sinking morale of staff across Scotland’s colleges leaves no doubt; the SNP's college cuts have cast a long shadow over the sector.
Further education should be a place of opportunity, which is why the Scottish Liberal Democrats believe that college sector investment is key to enabling people in Scotland to get on in life.
This new report reveals that the challenges facing the sector are stark. Instead of a place of opportunity, Scotland’s Colleges are approaching a state of crisis. UNISON found a majority of college lecturers and staff believe college services have declined as a result of budget cuts. A staggering 90% of college lecturers and staff believe colleges are underfunded.
7 out of 10 lecturers and staff say that the SNP’s centralisation and college mergers are to blame for the difficulties they face. It is hard to disagree with them.
The writing has been on the wall for some time. Since the SNP came to power over 140,000 college places and more than 7,000 staff members have been lost. Not only are college budgets falling, but financial support for most disadvantaged students has been cut as a result of swingeing reductions to bursaries.
We know that these cuts impact disproportionately on people who might have struggled to access education and training. Mature students seeking new skills to help them back into work. Young people who have decided that higher education is not for them.
Parents and carers who benefit from the flexibility that colleges can offer as they look after their families. All have suffered as a result of SNP reforms.
In the face of the overwhelming evidence the SNP Government can no longer afford to ignore the resounding chorus of concerns from the sector. Colleges must be given the funds they need and the flexibility to deliver courses in a way which best meets the needs of their students.
Ahead of the Budget last year, Liberal Democrats called for college funding to be restored. Our calls fell on deaf ears.
The longer the College sector suffers under SNP Government, the harder it will be to repair the damage. This report must be a wakeup call for Ministers.
Colleges need stability, not chaos. If you agree, join our campaign today: scotlibdems.org.uk/colleges