Henry McLeish, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, has announced a 9 per cent cash increase to further education colleges for the coming year, writes Olga Wojtas.
Mr McLeish said the extra Pounds 28.4 million, bringing the total to more than Pounds 351 million, would boost colleges' role in the lifelong learning revolution and enable them to become key players in economic development.
"This increase is well above the rate of inflation and represents a huge commitment by the Scottish Executive to developing further education," he said.
Colleges should be driving economic change, Mr McLeish said, and he wanted to see every college strengthening partnerships with business, enterprise companies and local councils.
They must also make a greater effort to foster and develop an entrepreneurial spirit among their students and trainees, he continued.
Robert Kay, chairman of the Association of Scottish Colleges, said the extra funding was just recognition for the colleges' hard work in recent years.
But the ASC is anxiously awaiting the Scottish Further Education Funding Council's allocations at the end of this month to see if the increase is enough to restore institutions' financial health.
"A lot more is being asked of the colleges in terms of extra places, wider access, the skills agenda and improved provision for the extra cash," Mr Kay said.
The colleges are expecting a much faster rate of expansion in the coming year, up to 16,000 extra places, compared with 8,000 in 1999-2000.