From education to employment

NUS Scotland: Spiral of cuts to colleges and universities will undermine welcome boost in student finance


After the publication of the Scottish Budget, NUS Scotland warns of dire consequences of cash-terms cuts to further and higher education

Following the publication of the Scottish Government’s draft budget for 2024-25, NUS Scotland has warned that over £100million of cash-terms cuts to higher and further education will have dire consequences for students.

While welcoming the recent announcement of a £2,400 rise in student support for university students, NUS Scotland said that underfunding of universities and colleges is an increasingly acute crisis.

This academic year, universities have received 19% less in real terms than in 2013–14, according to the IfS – while colleges face an even more severe strain.

With staff numbers and learning provision already being cut, combined with a £321m maintenance backlog,cuts to college funding will only exacerbatethe problem and let down students from Scotland’s poorest communities.

Commenting, NUS Scotland President Ellie Gomersall said:

“Over the past year, we’vebeen highlighting the cost of survival crisis faced by students and apprentices across Scotland, and the recentlyannounced £2,400 increase in university student finance is very welcome – although we await the announcement of the same support extended to further education students.

While this win brings relief to many struggling university students, we’re concerned that the continued underfunding of higher and further education undermines that progress.

It’s good to see that the wealthiest in society will make a slightly larger contribution in tax, but this is a drop in the ocean when essential public services like education have faced real-terms cuts for years.

University and college budgets have been eroded in real terms for years – and this time, we’re seeing cash terms cuts, which will be disastrous and only adds insult to injury.

Many colleges are on the brink. This will have dire consequences for students who have already seen cuts to teaching staff and cuts to teaching provision, particularly for those in our poorest communities.

This Budget also fails toprovide any certainty on long-term funding for student mental health, which is in crisis. As students are stuck on long waiting lists and institutions can’tproperly plan counsellor provision, we urgently need a sustainable settlement.

If the government is genuinely serious about tackling poverty and inequality, it should make education a priority,reverse this spiral of cuts, and start funding our colleges and universities properly. NUS will continue campaigning to stop the cuts, and build an education system that works for all students.”

The education section of the Scottish Budget can be seen here.

IfS article on the public funding of Scotland’s universities, highlighting the 19% real terms cut since 2013-14 here.

Audit Scotland’s report, ‘Scotland’s Colleges 2023’, highlighting increased risks to colleges’ financial sustainability here.

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