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Comment from Colleges Scotland on the SFC Review published today

The Scottish Funding Council (@ScotFundCouncil) has today (Tuesday, 29 June 2021) published its final report on Coherence and Sustainability: A review of Tertiary Education and Research, which began in June 2020 at the request of Scottish Government ministers.

The Review was conducted in three phases and Colleges Scotland has worked closely with colleges and the SFC to put forward the views of the sector at every step in the process.

We are pleased to see that the Report calls for multi-year funding and longer-term planning – the sector has been campaigning for sustainable funding for some time to enable colleges to plan and invest more strategically for our students and staff. The recommendation for a strategic vision for tertiary education will also ensure that the ambitions of the sector are realised. Many of the recommendations in the Review, if enacted, would support economic recovery and allow colleges to realise their potential to deliver world-class education, be anchor institutions in communities, and work more effectively with local, regional and national businesses.

The recommendation to set up a Micro-Credential Framework and Delivery Plan for Scotland is welcome – this would build on the work that colleges already do in terms of training, upskilling, and reskilling to meet the needs of the labour market and technological changes, enabling people to future-proof their careers and learn in a way that suits them. We look forward to working with SFC and the Scottish Government to take forward the recommendations.

Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland, said:

“The Review is welcome and we could see some real change delivered for colleges if it’s recommendations are taken forward. This lies principally with Scottish Government to deliver but also with colleges themselves, with agencies, and there are actions SFC could take forwards as the funding body. I was pleased to see the breadth and depth of the Review which recognises the many ways in which colleges are an essential part of tertiary education in Scotland.

“The recommendation on moving colleges to a multi-year funding model is essential – the one-year funding model we have today should be consigned to the past, colleges need financial stability going forwards. Colleges want to plan and invest, work with local and regional partners, and most importantly provide a really great experience for our students which on one-year funding is becoming ever more challenging. Financial stability is critical to the success of colleges now and in the future.

“The Review is right to consider the impact of the pandemic on the college sector and, again if its recommendations are enacted, there is a great opportunity for the delivery of new ways of learning such as micro-credentials and making the most of the digital learning and working environment that we’ve all had to pivot to.

“The Review also notes how important collaboration is, and we would agree more collaboration is essential for colleges to truly thrive – colleges want to work with each other, with universities, with schools and with the businesses around them to deliver education, skills and training to people across their lives.”

Responding to the review Matt Crilly, NUS Scotland President, said:

“Today’s review recognises some of the major challenges faced by students, stating the need for digital access, mental health support, as well as the importance of student engagement and student associations. Having suffered major disruption to our studies this year, it is particularly welcome that this review recognises the need for a connected tertiary education system which allows students to easily progress through their education.

“However, the pandemic has exposed just how reliant some institutions are on international student tuition fees. Instead of championing education as a public good which should be funded as such, this review appears to recommend further marketisation with a continued reliance on international tuition fees. Scotland should be a welcoming country to those who wish to come and study here, not treat those outwith our boundaries as cash-cows used to prop up funding gaps in our education.

“Our universities and colleges should never be big businesses – they must be democratic institutions with students at the heart of decision-making.”

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