Part-time college places fall by 85,000

Image caption The Liberal Democrats say the number of part-time places has fallen by about 85,000 since 2009

Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats confirm the number of part-time places in Scotland's colleges has fallen by 31% since 2009.

The statistics obtained under Freedom of Information show the number of part-time places fell by about 85,000.

Campaigners said this reduced the chances for those seeking work.

The Scottish government wants to focus on providing full-time training places for young people.

The figures also suggest 8,000 extra full-time places had been created over the same time period.

The Liberal Democrats blamed multi-million pound cuts in college funding for the reduction in part-time places.

Scottish Lib Dem education spokesman Liam McArthur said: "These figures show that colleges have already cut part-time places in their thousands. With over 80,000 fewer part-time places in Scotland's colleges since 2009, Scottish Liberal Democrats are concerned about the impact a further £25m cut will have on students.

"In Aberdeen College alone there are 12,915 fewer part-time enrolments this year compared to 2009, but only 427 more full- time students.

"Regardless of how you look at this, it still equates to significantly fewer opportunities for those who wish to learn. This reduction in part-time places could affect parents, carers and others who find it impossible to study full-time.

"In the face of these worrying figures the education secretary can no longer afford to ignore the resounding chorus of concerns from the sector. Colleges must be given the funds and the flexibility to deliver courses in a way which best meets the needs of their students and their local areas."

'Play catch-up'

In February the Scottish government announced £61m over three years in the budget to mitigate the impact of cuts to college spending cuts.

That still meant a £24.6m cut in the college funding settlement.

A spokesman for Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "Liam McArthur needs to play catch-up - the Scottish government have provided an extra £61m for Scotland's colleges in the budget that has just been passed.

"But even Mr McArthur has been forced to admit that this government is providing thousands more full-time college places than four years ago - in spite of the savage cuts imposed on Scotland's budget by his Lib Dem colleagues along with the Tories at Westminster.

"The extra money we are investing in Scotland's colleges is tackling youth unemployment by ensuring more of those full-time places, which in turn leads to more young people securing jobs."

Research indicates if young people struggle to find a job at the start of their working lives they may remain unemployed for many years.

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