Scottish secretary Donald Dewar has hailed this week's announcement of grants to Scottish further education colleges as "nothing short of a funding revolution".
This is the last direct Scottish Office allocation to colleges before the new Scottish Further Education Funding Council takes over responsibility in May. The Pounds 328.8 million total for 1999-2000, a cash-terms increase of almost 14 per cent, has been heavily targeted to promote ministerial priorities.
Mr Dewar has unveiled a Pounds 314 million funding package, almost 97 per cent of the total, in which the 47 colleges will receive an extra Pounds 20 million in recurrent grants, a 9 per cent cash-terms rise.
Because of concerns that it was promoting excessive growth and competition, the Scottish Office has been revising its funding formula in recent years and has provided a safety net to ease the shift. It has now removed the safety net, but no college has been given less in cash terms than last year.
The recurrent funding includes more than Pounds 8 million to fund 8,000 extra places, 40 per cent of which will go to students from deprived areas. The Scottish Office intends to fund 40,000 new full and part-time further education places over the next three years.
Mr Dewar said bursary funds were being increased by 7 per cent, from Pounds 44 million to Pounds 47 million, to uprate maintenance allowances and provide appropriate support for the extra students.
The Scottish Office is keen for colleges to draft a long-term strategy that could lead to mergers and more collaboration. As a prod, it last year reduced the standard Pounds 250,000 allowance for overheads to individual colleges to Pounds 200,000. This has now been cut to Pounds 120,000.
It has left three separate funds of Pounds 1 million earmarked for the SFEFC to allocate, to promote collaboration and rationalisation, new areas where provision is limited, and innovation.
Bob Kay, chairman of the Association of Scottish Colleges, said: "This extra cash is a huge boost for further education after three tough years." Pressures on costs and staffing will ease for the sector, but problems will remain at some colleges, the ASC said.
SCOTTISH FE FUNDING ALLOCATIONS 1999-2000
College Total (Pounds m)
Aberdeen College 18.59 Angus College 5.46 Anniesland College 5.97 Ayr College 6.73 Banff & BuchanCollege of FE 5.26 The Barony College 1.35 Bell College of Technology 5.00
Borders College 5.54 Cambuslang College 4.82 Cardonald College 9.77 Central College of Commerce 5.53 Clackmannan College of FE 3.25 Clydebank College 8.37 Coatbridge College 5.15 Cumbernauld College 4.18 Dumfries & Galloway College 6.38 Dundee College 12.56 Edinburgh's Telford College 16.42
Elmwood College 4.01 Falkirk College of FHE 10.30 Fife College of FHE 8.26 Glasgow College of Building & Printing 7.94 Glasgow College of Food Technology 3.85 College Total (Pounds m) Glasgow College of Nautical Studies 4.93 Glenrothes College 6.51 Inverness College 7.89 James Watt Collegeof FHE 13.70 Jewel & Esk Valley College 8.79 John Wheatley College 4.36 Kilmarnock College 8.03 Langside College 8.16 Lauder College 7.28 Lews Castle College 2.42
Moray College 6.33 Motherwell College 10.51 Newbattle Abbey College 0.31 North Glasgow College 6.11 Oatridge Agricultural College 2.13 Orkney College 1.07 Perth College 6.80 Reid Kerr College 10.13 Sabhal Mor Ostaig 0.68 Shetland College of FE 1.38 Stevenson College 13. Stow College 6.49 Thurso College 3.50 West Lothian College 5.17 Total 310.59