College cuts catastrophic

Motherwell College faces a 20 per cent budget cut
Motherwell College faces a 20 per cent budget cut

The principal of Motherwell College says it is ‘inconceivable’ that current student and staff numbers can be maintained if its budget is slashed by a fifth.

Last month finance secretary John Swinney announced in the Scottish Parliament that the budget for further education colleges in Scotland would be cut by £74 million.

This would mean Motherwell College is faced with a drop in income of around 20 per cent, just 12 months after having to stomach a 10 per cent budget cut.

The college currently offers over 180 day and evening courses across more than 20 departments to nearly 20,000 students served by around 500 members of staff.

College principal Hugh Logan refused to go into specific numbers until he learns the actual budget he will have to work with, but he predicts tough times ahead.

He said: “Given the level of cuts that are proposed I fully expected we will have to take our share along with everyone else.

“When they are brought in, while I will do all I can to minimise the impact, student and staff numbers will be cut because it is inconceivable that they can be maintained.

“This is deeply disturbing, because in Lanarkshire there is already well evidenced under provision of college places compared to other parts of Scotland.”

Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland has launched a motion in Parliament criticising the cuts.

He said: “The cut in Motherwell College’s budget threatens courses, staff and students, undermining the fight against poverty and deprivation.

“Local unemployment has climbed from a little over the UK average three years ago, and is now 5.8 per cent - almost 50 per cent higher than the UK average of 3.9 per cent.

“Prospective students will be turned away and in a deprived area, this is the path to public demoralisation.

The Scottish Government has assured Mr Pentland that they won’t force colleges into mergers, but he claims they won’t have to.

He added: “They don’t need to force mergers. With cuts of this scale, for some colleges, it will be the only way that they can survive.”

So far Mr Pentland’s motion has been signed by Labour colleagues Michael McMahon, Elaine Murray, Jackie Baillie, Hugh Henry, Mark Griffin, Margaret McCulloch, Neil Findlay, Claudia Beamish, Margaret McDougall, Drew Smith and Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

Student representative Angie Donnachie expressed her concerns about the attack on the opportunities available to current and future students.

She said: “Budgets are tight and value for public money is important, but more cuts to further education are a short term fix that stores up problems for the future.

“At Motherwell we’ve already seen major cuts to courses and staffing across the college and those who benefit most from further education - young people, the unemployed and returners to education - will continue to be worst affected.

“My experience as a part-time student at Motherwell College has been life-changing. As a single parent, I was only able to do this because there was a provider within my community that offered relevant, flexible opportunities for adults returning to education.”

Tell us what you think about the college budget cuts - e-mail motherwell.times@jnscotland.co.uk, tweet @TimesSpeaker or find Motherwell Times on Facebook.