SNP under fire for fall in Scottish college staffing levels

Staffing numbers in Scotland’s colleges have plummeted by more than 1,700 in just over a decade according to official figures.

Staffing numbers have fallen across Scottish colleges. Picture: Scott Louden

The number of full-time staff working at colleges in Scotland has fallen by 13.5 per cent since 2007 with numbers of teaching staff also dropping by 12.7 per cent.

The analysis of the Scottish Funding Council figures by Scottish Labour shows there were 12,653 full-time equivalent employees at colleges across the country in 2007/2008, but this had dropped to 10,942 by 2017/18. Full time teaching staff numbers fell from 6,311 to 5,512.

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The statistics were revealed as college staff prepare for three more days of strike action next month in a bid to increase the 2 per cent, over three years, pay rise that has been offered by Colleges Scotland.

Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray claimed the figures highlighted a failure by the SNP to support Scotland’s further education sector.

“Colleges are key to jobs and growth, not to mention their important role in widening access to opportunities for disadvantaged young people,” he said.

“Since the SNP took power, and their subsequent botched regionalisation of the sector, further education in Scotland has suffered. Colleges have faced under-investment, students numbers have plummeted by 120,000 and staff numbers have also declined.”

He added: “What’s more, staff and students are working in buildings in need of repairs totalling hundreds of millions of pounds. Hard-working lecturers are now also engaged in industrial action over a cost-of-living pay rise to which they are entitled. For too long further education has been seen by the SNP as the poor relation. That must end.”

Lecturers have already carried out four one-day strikes and have agreed to other industrial action including refusing to record student results in their employer’s results system and a withdrawal of goodwill.

The Educational Institute of Scotland – Further Education Lecturers’ Association Lecturers has said teaching staff are “asking only to be treated fairly, and to receive a pay settlement that reflects the rising cost of living.”

Scottish Conservative children and young people spokeswoman Alison Harris said the staffing figures were further evidence “of the damaging cuts imposed by the SNP on our college sector.

“Each year colleges help prepare thousands of people for employment, yet thanks to SNP cuts we’ve seen a drastic fall in student numbers and now staff.

“We need to give this sector the support it needs not only for the benefits it provides to students, but to the economy as well.”

However the Scottish Government refuted the Labour analysis and said: “Since college regionalisation in 2013, college lecturer headcount figures have increased by 400, and full time equivalent have increased by 100. We continue to support the college sector through significant capital and revenue investment. Since 2007, we have invested more than £6 billion into Scotland’s colleges.”