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Colleges Scotland & Universities Scotland: Joint Statement Ahead of the December Budget

Colleges and universities are calling on the Scottish Government to invest now in further and higher education to boost Scotland’s productivity and ensure a trained workforce for the future.

The Scottish Government has three key goals – economic transformation, mitigating the climate emergency, and tackling child poverty – none of which can be delivered if the right graduates don’t enter the economy at the right time. Much of the flagship National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) relies on a skilled workforce, research and business-facing innovation to support the economy.

The ask comes as Ministers prepare to put the finishing touches to the Draft Scottish Budget, which is expected to be delivered on Thursday, 15 December 2022.

Both colleges and universities are facing significant financial challenges. Both sectors warn that there can be no zero-sum game on funding between further and higher education without causing long-term detriment to Scotland.

Scotland risks losing out on tens of thousands of jobs in emerging green industries and sectors like high-value manufacturing and quantum technologies if there is insufficient investment in skills development in our future workforce and in the research and development needed to catalyse the growth of such industries.

New jobs in these sectors can power economic growth, deliver net zero targets, and tackle poverty through the regeneration and support for challenged communities across Scotland. Other critical industries in Scotland like health and social care, hospitality, cyber security, and construction are facing chronic labour shortages.

Shona Struthers, Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland said: “Scotland has world-class colleges and universities which are capable of delivering the competencies and learning opportunities needed to ensure a skills-led recovery is possible. However, a failure to adequately fund these vital organisations will undoubtedly mean we will miss out on the potential economic and employment opportunities ahead of us.

“The choice is stark. Invest in further and higher education and deliver tens of thousands of jobs while attracting tens of billions in investment or don’t invest and live with the inevitable dire consequences which will damage Scotland for decades to come.”

Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland said: “Scotland is at a real crossroads. Clearly, public finances are under real pressure, but Scotland’s strategy must be to invest in areas that can return sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

“Our colleges and universities offer Scotland exactly that. College and university budgets have already taken several hits over recent years leaving institutions highly exposed to current inflationary challenges. Their budgets must be protected going forward if Scotland is to get the high-level skills needed as part of a just transition, to support the emergence of new industries, products and processes due to research and to attract inward investment.

“Investment in post-school education must be one of Scotland’s priorities because of its ability to deliver for Scotland.”

Colleges Scotland Budget Submission.

Universities Scotland Budget Submission.

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