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Lecturers and students will gather outside Holyrood today to protest against cuts to college funding.
The rally, organised by teaching union the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) is aimed at highlighting the effects of budget cuts in the sector. It will be followed by a meeting between senior EIS members and Education Secretary Michael Russell, where two petitions on further education will be presented.
The first is in protest against funding cuts, while the second relates to operation and management of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). Funding for colleges was reduced by 10% in 2011/12, with a further 10% cut in the budget for 2012/13.
The EIS has estimated that, with more cuts to come in future years, funding will be down by 36% in real terms over the next four years. The EIS says the cuts have already resulted in the loss of more than 1,800 college staff jobs in the last year, the narrowing of choice for students due to cuts in the number of courses on offer, and a drop in student numbers across the country. The union's general secretary Larry Flanagan said: ``Further education is vital to Scotland, and essential to the country's economic recovery. This rally and petition hand-over will emphasise the importance of Scotland's Further Education sector, and highlight the damaging impact of the continuing deep cuts to college funding. ``I would urge lecturers, students and others to turn out to show their strong support for Scottish further education.''
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ``The college sector will benefit from an overall increase in resource this year. In addition to resource funding of #506.9 million for 2012-13 set out in the last spending review, we are also investing an additional #40 million including #13 million in college provision through Skills Development Scotland, #15 million for the 'college transformation fund' and an additional #11.4 million for student support. ``We said we would maintain student numbers and college student support and that is exactly what we are doing. From 2007 until the end of our spending review period, we will have invested #4.7 billion in colleges alone - 40% more in cash terms than the investment made under the two terms of the previous administration. ``We are also investing in our college estates - through the Non Profit Distribution model we will be investing #200 million to build a new City of Glasgow college - the largest investment ever made in any college in Scotland. We will also make a combined investment of #100 million to build new colleges in Inverness and Kilmarnock.''