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Further Education in Scotland

Scotland’s 24 colleges are vital to learners, communities and the Scottish economy. However, all too often, they are treated as the poor relation of the education system, largely ignored by policy makers. This paper aims to put colleges back into the public policy debate.

The authors, John Kelly and Dave Watson examine what colleges do and how they are organised and financed in Scotland. This includes an analysis of the regionalisation and college mergers following the 2013 Act and the governance problems since reorganisation.

They conclude that Scottish Government ministers must engage directly with the college sector based on a return to a public service focus with collaboration, not competition. This should be underpinned by a sustained increase in funding and a new start for industrial relations through a culture change owned by employers and trade unions. The government must develop a joined-up post-school education policy that recognises the key role of colleges in meeting the needs of students and the economy.

The Director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation, Dave Watson, said,

‘The report concludes that Scotland does not value the college sector. This needs to change. Colleges matter in Scotland’s economy because they generate a significant proportion of the nation’s wealth and are crucial to the Just Transition to meet our climate change targets. Industries must upskill their existing workers and need a new generation of workers with the necessary skills. Without adequately funded colleges, there is no viable pathway to net zero.’

‘The core problem is underfunding. College funding per student is only two-thirds of that allocated to schools and universities. We suspect that is largely because the policymakers went to universities, and their children go straight from schools to universities. Colleges have a high proportion of young and not-so-young adults from working-class backgrounds and communities left behind in other policy areas.’