Colleges (Meetings)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 29 February 2024.

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Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

3. To ask the Scottish Government when it last met with representatives of the college sector. (S6O-03136)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I met college chairs and principals at a Colleges Scotland event in Stirling on 30 January. More generally, the Scottish Government meets representatives of the college sector frequently, through in-person meetings, visits, online meetings and written communication with individual colleges, the sector as a whole and representative bodies. I will personally be meeting college reps on both Monday and Tuesday of next week.

Photo of Audrey Nicoll Audrey Nicoll Scottish National Party

A recent Fraser of Allander Institute report on the economic contribution of colleges highlights the crucial role they play in our green transition by equipping individuals with essential skills for the energy sector.

Within the energy space, North East Scotland College is working with partners across business, education and technology to deliver learning that will meet our future skilled workforce needs. Recently, the First Minister visited Aberdeen and confirmed the Scottish Government’s commitment to the north-east as a powerhouse for Scotland’s economic development. What action is the Scottish Government taking to ensure that colleges such as NESCol will be supported to deliver on the skills element of national and regional green economic policies, given the challenging funding landscape?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

Our education and skills system is playing a crucial role in the transition to net zero, and colleges and universities are key anchors for that transition. In what has been the most challenging budget in the history of devolution, we have provided nearly £2 billion for colleges and universities. Indicative funding allocations for individual colleges are expected to be set out by the Scottish Funding Council this spring, as is the usual practice.

I will visit NESCol on 11 March, and I look forward to hearing more about the good work of the college and any challenges that it is facing.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

There are a number of supplementary questions. I want to get them all in, but they will need to be brief.

Photo of Liam Kerr Liam Kerr Conservative

The last time that I met representatives of the college sector was at an apprenticeship and qualifications round-table meeting last week. What impact assessments have been done of the effect on skills and apprenticeships of the £59 million cut to the net college resource budget?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

All such measures are the subject of analysis. I say to Liam Kerr, as I have said to his colleagues, that if the Scottish Government’s budget goes down, our ability to support things such as the college and apprenticeship budget is impacted. That is just a matter of fact, regrettable though it is. If Mr Kerr—as is his right—believes that we should have allocated more money to that budget, he had an opportunity, through the budget process, to bring amendments to the budget. I am struggling to recall that happening.

Photo of Pam Duncan-Glancy Pam Duncan-Glancy Labour

Unison and the Educational Institute of Scotland are both taking part in strike action today because their members are now 18 months overdue a pay rise. What discussions has the minister had with College Employers Scotland about Unison’s proposals to develop an avoidance of redundancy fund and provide advance payment to staff to alleviate financial hardship, and whether he would be willing to facilitate those proposals?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I raised that issue with College Employers Scotland informally a couple of weeks ago, on the back of a constructive meeting that I had with Unison. I would like to see them both back around the table to discuss the matter on the basis that has been suggested, because the Government is not in a position to put further funds into that process. However, it is a very valid ask from the trade union, and for the employers and the union to find agreement around it would be all to the good.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

On Monday, I spoke to furious staff and students from the Elmwood campus in Cupar who are trying to save the animal care unit. Can the minister have a discussion with Scotland’s Rural College management about how he can assist to keep that important unit for staff and students?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

I am entirely aware of Mr Rennie’s constituency interest in this, not least because I saw his DIY video on the subject earlier this week—seriously, I entirely understand where he is coming from. It is not for me to engage directly with SRUC on that issue, but I assure the member that I have asked my officials to seek an update on the matter from SRUC.