SCOTLAND'S universities and colleges will receive more than £1.6 billion of funding for the next academic year, officials have said.

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) has provided an early indication of the cash that will be available to the higher and further education sectors for the academic year 2014/15.

Universities should receive just under £1.07 billion - about £646 million will go towards teaching.

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The funding includes £18.5m to be invested providing about 3300 additional university places - most of which will be for college students or people from deprived backgrounds.

The SFC said this should help widen access to university as well as allowing more college students to progress with their studies. Meanwhile, colleges will be allocated about £526.3m.

Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "While the final allocations have yet to be confirmed, such significant levels of investment into further and higher education highlight the Scottish Government's commitment to post-16 education.

"This announcement means our colleges and universities can progress planning on our priorities such as widening access, progression from further to higher education and more support for college students, mirroring the emphasis that we have placed on education being based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay."

SFC interim chief ­executive Laurence Howells said: "As well as funding for students, we are also announcing continuing investment in research and innovation, representing an investment of over £1.6 billion in better life chances and better prospects for Scotland's economy."