A Labour MP has called for Scotland to consider following the English pattern of funding higher education in its further education sector.
Courses run by Scottish further education colleges are directly funded by the Scottish Office, whereas higher education in English further education colleges is financed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Dennis Canavan, MP for Falkirk West, speaking during a Commons debate on Scottish further education, called on the Government to investigate the possibility of making the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council responsible for funding all higher education north of the border, both in universities and further education colleges.
Mr Canavan also urged the Scottish Office to consider strengthening the links between colleges and local education authorities by decentralising funding. Mr Canavan suggested setting up a contractual arrangement which would enable the different local characters of the colleges to be recognised.
He warned the Scottish Office of an impending crisis in the sector as the result of a 12.5 per cent cut in real terms between 1994/95 and 1998/99, and said that 28 of the 43 colleges had suffered real cuts in income this year.
But Raymond Robertson, Scottish Office minister for education, said recurrent funding had increased by 14 per cent since incorporation in 1993, while the Government believed the private finance initiative would increasing replace capital funding.