Date: Wed 2 January 2013
Students being turned away by colleges highlights need for support services
UNISON today called on Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell to guarantee proper staffing for support services in colleges, after figures showed thousands of suitably qualified students are being turned away.
Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests show colleges across Scotland don’t have places for thousands of applicants, with many put onto waiting lists.
UNISON, the union representing college support staff, is deeply concerned about the impact of massive cuts to college budgets and warned that students rely heavily on support services, including for choosing the correct course after guidance.
Chris Greenshields, chair of UNISON’s Further Education Committee, said: “This proves there is a greater need for more support services to quickly deal with the increase in applications we have seen for college courses over the last few years, not fewer, as suggested by current proposals.
“Applicants require a quick response to avoid languishing on waiting lists for months. If the planned £50 million savings result in slashing of support staff jobs then this will make the position more difficult for applicants to get quick and clear responses from colleges in relation to their applications and their future.
“We have lost 1300 jobs in the sector in the last year alone. If further cuts in support staff numbers take place, there won't be enough support staff left in our colleges to answer the phones, never mind provide the proper pre-entry support and guidance which our college applicants require.
“We need guarantees from Mr Russell that support services in our colleges will be properly staffed. UNISON is seeking urgent discussions with the Scottish Government to ensure that staff numbers won't fall further after the mergers. Also, as we have said frequently, there is no evidence that mergers will result in the huge savings predicted through shared services.”
For further information please contact:
Fiona Montgomery, Communications Officer, UNISON Scotland: 07508 877000
Notes for editors
The FOI responses were released by the Scottish Liberal Democrats: http://scotlibdems.org.uk/news/2013/01/figures-reveal-thousands-are-being-turned-away-college
Scottish UNISON Scotland publications on current aspects of Further Education:
College regionalisation response
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/Response to college regionalisation proposals December 2011.pdf
Examples of problems with mergers
FE governance response
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/Evidence to review of FE governance October 2011.pdf
Post 16 education response
http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/Response to Putting learners at the centre post 16 education.pdf