STUDENTS will pay the price for a nine per cent pay rise for lecturers which will cost colleges almost £100 million, it has been warned.

In addition, thousands of Scottish college students face the prospect of cancelled classes as lecturers threaten to strike despite agreeing salaries of up to £40,000 a year and 62 days’ annual holidays.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said further education lecturers are officially in dispute with college management after talks broke down over an extra £1,000 in “living costs” from next year.

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Background: Root of problem was college restructure

Colleges Scotland, the body that represents further education institutions, said that the £99m additional pay deal had been agreed that would give lecturers a nine per cent annual and extra holidays.

But it warned that it would struggle to put in place the financial deal without it impacting on courses and said it certainly could not afford the extra £7m – £1,000 for each lecturer – being demanded.

A spokesman for the Scottish Colleges Employers’ Association said: “All college lecturers across Scotland are receiving a very good deal – an average nine per cent pay increase with salaries of up to £40,000, 62 days holiday and other terms and conditions of service safeguarded and/or enhanced.

“This new dispute could result in more disruptive strike action across the country early in the new year. This would not be in the best interests of students and we would urge the EIS to reconsider their formal dispute.

“This further bid for increased pay is not sustainable for colleges. Colleges cannot afford to fund substantial pay rises for lecturers which are at the expense of delivering high quality education and training for students.”

Herald View: Government must pay for its promises on colleges

The SNP pledged to introduce national bargaining as part of reforms in the sector, to address pay and other anomalies, such as differences in teaching hours and holiday entitlement. Some lecturers earned as much as £12,000 a year more than others for doing the same job.

However, the EIS accused college leaders of dragging their feet over implementing the deal.

The new £99m deal will be costly for the colleges that have suffered very deep cuts to their learning and teaching budgets in recent years.

Spending watchdogs recently warned that colleges are already facing an uncertain financial future with growing deficits and a decline in student numbers.

A report by Audit Scotland found the financial health of the sector was “relatively stable”, but had deteriorated in the last few years with deficits of £19m in 2015/16.

Audit Scotland also said student numbers had decreased in 2015/16 with the student population at its lowest level since 2006/07 – when the SNP came to power.

Luke Humberstone, NUS Scotland President, said: “We absolutely cannot underestimate the impact that college lecturers have on students’ learning experience, as well as the communities that benefit from the fantastic work our colleges and lecturers do.

“It’s encouraging to see colleges and unions reach an agreement which recognises this contribution.

“We need to see employers and unions sitting down to reach an agreement quickly, to avoid another year of uncertainty for students.It’s vital that we secure a positive future for our college staff, ensuring that students continue to learn from the best people in their field.”

Opposition politicians called on the SNP to ensure the national deal was fully funded and warned that students would suffer if colleges were left to foot the bill.

Background: Root of problem was college restructure

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “The Scottish Government must ensure colleges are able to meet these new arrangements.

“The SNP has already cut college budgets to the bone.

"If ministers don’t cough up the additional resources, students will be the ones paying the price.”

Scottish Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said: “It is vital that the government provides the additional funding for this pay rise so our colleges are not further out of pocket, after a decade in which the SNP has slashed college resources. SNP ministers made this promise and they must provide the resources for it”.

An EIS spokesman said: “The EIS is encouraged that agreement in principle has been reached on delivery of the remaining conditions of service issues from the historic agreement, which previously delivered consensus on the need for salary harmonisation across the college sector in order to correct decades of pay divergence.

“No new cost of living pay increase has yet been agreed for this year, and the EIS will continue to pursue this on behalf of its members.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our focus is on delivering a modern and flexible college workforce, which rewards staff appropriately, meets the needs of students, and supports economic growth.

“There will clearly be ongoing cost implications of this agreement which the Scottish Government will seek to reflect in future budget settlements.”