Scottish colleges get Pounds 10m extra

June 23, 2000

Henry McLeish, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, is promoting wider access with a Pounds 10 million award to further education colleges.

Mr McLeish announced the "completely new money" at the Association of Scottish Colleges' annual conference and said it must all be spent in the current financial year on capital works. He said that during his visits to colleges, he had seen evidence of years of capital under-investment and a need for better access to buildings for students with disabilities.

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council had already announced Pounds 16 million of capital grants this year. "I would hope this one-off additional Pounds 10 million will be used to make a start on investing in works to enhance physical access to buildings, particularly for students with special needs," he said.

"Some of it may also help to accelerate further the general modernisation of the fabric of the further education sector," he added.

Graham Clark, principal of Inverness College, later admitted his heart had sunk at the thought of another plan to be written in the wake of the grant announcement. He asked SFEFC chairman Robert Beattie: "Do you accept that we are in planning fatigue?" But Mr Beattie said the SFEFC's recent estates survey meant it already knew "pretty well" where the money would be spent. The SFEFC, which took over further education funding a year ago, had to mount a series of reviews, but now had a "wealth of information" on which to go forward.

"Hopefully, we are no longer asking you for 40, 50, 60-page plans, but something more succinct and focused," Mr Beattie said.

Mr McLeish said he also wanted to see the shape of the further education sector modernised in terms of supply and demand. "The most efficient pattern of supply cannot be that which was dictated largely by the former pattern of Scottish local authorities," he said.

Mr McLeish is seeking rationalisation plans from the SFEFC by the end of the year, but he reassured the ASC that he did not envisage "shotgun weddings".

He also said the colleges were well down the road to turning the Scottish Executive's policies for a learning nation into reality.

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