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Scottish colleges warn demand may soon outstrip additional £16.1m for extra places

More than £16 million is being allocated to fund an additional 4100 college places in Scotland for 2010/11.

Colleges across the UK are already feeling the strain from a surge of demand prompted by the economic downturn. The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) says the additional funds will help colleges take on more students aged 16-24, and support the work-focussed element of the Government’s Young Person’s Guarantee of work, training or work experience.

However, there are concerns from the sector that the SFC has misjudged the scale of demand colleges of Scotland are bracing themselves for this coming year.

Linda McTavish, Convener of Scotland’s Colleges’ Principals’ Convention, welcomed the announcement but cautions the funding may soon be outstripped by demand.

Ms McTavish says: “We are pleased that the funds are being targeted at those who most need it; students aged 16 – 25 from areas of high unemployment.

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“It is disappointing, however, that additional funding is not being allocated to all colleges in Scotland to cope with the increasing demand for college places.”

Liam Burns, president of NUS Scotland, also warns the funding may not be enough to prevent the many problems the sector faces this year.

“This additional funding is welcome, but we believe that the student support system for college students is not yet ready to cope with the pressures it will face this year,” says Mr Burns.

“Financial hardship and debt levels are through the roof for the poorest students at the moment. We need additional funding to ensure bursary funds can meet demand, but we also need a fundamental look at the way students are supported at Scotland’s colleges to ensure that funds don’t run out half way through courses again, and to ensure people from all backgrounds can get the help they need to study at college in Scotland.”

Jason Rainbow

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