College changes are a product of austerity – but will hit many people hard

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So, according to Conservative education spokeswoman in Holyrood, Liz Smith, the further education sector in Scotland is facing “a looming crisis” (Your report, 15 January). Well, time will tell, but having worked in the sector for more than 30 years, I doubt it and of course it has absolutely nothing to do with the 7 per cent cut imposed on Holyrood by Ms Smith’s leader in Westminster, George Osborne.

It’s not really news at all – it’s the continuation of a strategy which was initiated several years ago where the emphasis has been placed to focus on the provision of full-time courses aligned with employment opportunities, particularly for young people. Ms Smith is perfectly aware of the reality, which is that part-time, leisure and lifestyle courses have been the ones to suffer.

Of course, in terms of provision of life-long learning, opportunities for adult returners, people with caring responsibilities, some people with disabilities and others who cannot commit to a full-time course, this situation is not at all good.

However, it is not time for the opposition parties in Holyrood to rein in their opportunistic cynicism and use of overworked hyperbole and acknowledge that in times of austerity, some hard choices have to be made? Not holding my breath on that one.

Gill Turner

Derby Street, Edinburgh

I was very disappointed to read that college places in Scotland had fallen by 152,000 under this SNP government. I was further disappointed to hear the Scottish Government attempt to dismiss these figures as “just” part-time which don’t meet their definition of “substantive courses”.

Part-time courses like these are typically taken by people who can’t afford to study full-time, who are attempting to up-skill or mothers returning to work.

That the Scottish Government sees the needs of such people as unsubstantive reveals much about their ­priorities.

Fraser Whyte

Barclay Park, Aboyne

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