Highlands project soaks up FE earmarked cash

January 3, 1997

The Association of Scottish Colleges has reacted angrily to finding that more than half of the anticipated further education budget increase has been earmarked for the University of the Highlands and Islands project.

It is seeking an urgent meeting with the Scottish Office next week to express its disquiet about it.

The ASC had understood from Scottish Office budget figures that the sector's funding would increase by Pounds 17 million over the next three years. But it has now calculated that Pounds 9 million of this will be siphoned into a Pounds 15.9 million package which Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth has just announced for the UHI project.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department said: "The additional funding for further education recently announced includes support for colleges which are members of the UHI project. This reflects the fact that the cap on growth on higher education student numbers has been lifted in these colleges, and they will be developing a number of degree level courses."

Inverness, Lews Castle, Moray, Orkney, Perth, Shetland and Thurso further education colleges are members of the UHI project.

The SOEID spokeswoman said the overall level of support for further education colleges would allow them to increase student numbers and invest in new technology. But Tom Kelly, chief officer of the ASC, said: "The SOEID has been understandably coy about its intentions on UHI, having led us to believe that the settlement for colleges generally was more generous than it in fact is."

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