Scottish colleges facing multi-million pound shortfall
Further education institutes struggling to maintain their buildings and estates, report warns.
Colleges are facing a multimillion-pound shortfall in funding for maintaining their buildings, Scotland's spending watchdog has warned.
Student numbers are rising but capital funding has fallen in the last year, the Auditor General has said, so that money allocated for buildings and infrastructure will not meet the estimated costs of maintaining the college estate.
The Scottish Government increased its funding for the sector by 1% in 2019-20 to cover a £50m-a-year pay rise for staff.
However, general capital funding for Scotland's colleges has been cut from £33.6m million in 2018-19 to £21m this year. Backlogged maintenance will also cost an estimated £77m.
With the majority of colleges forecasting deficits in the next five years, Auditor General for Scotland Caroline Gardner said: "It is likely that the gap between their income and spending will continue to widen without action."
"Colleges are increasingly dependent on public funding to cover their costs," she said, adding: "Tighter budgets make financial planning even more important.
"Colleges and the Scottish Funding Council need to do more to ensure they are as well-prepared as possible to deal with ongoing pressures."
A report looking at college funding suggested that only a small number of institutions have identified specific actions to deal with shortfalls.
On the issue of attainment gap, colleges are widening access to students from a range of backgrounds, but are not meeting targets for students from the most deprived areas.
The report adds that colleges are behind the current target and the aim of delivering 20% of credits to students from the most-deprived areas by 2020-21 "looks difficult to achieve."
Further education minister Richard Lochhead said: "Audit Scotland finds that the college sector reported a small, but improved, underlying financial surplus in 2017-18.
"The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) assists colleges with their medium and long term financial planning and provides support as required.
"We are also working with the sector to diversify income streams.
"The SFC will produce a medium-term capital investment strategy for the college estate which will provide valuable evidence to determine future investment."