MORE than half of Scotland's colleges have axed courses in the wake of Scottish Government cuts to their teaching budget.

A Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Scotland's largest teaching union found 23 colleges out of 38 cut courses in 2011/12.

Subjects scrapped include music, law, management and business. Colleges involved include those in Glasgow, Dundee, the Borders, Ayrshire and Aberdeen.

In addition, 17 colleges said they cut teaching hours in the past year. At least 11 said they were considering more cuts.

In 2010/11, the teaching budget to colleges was cut by 10.4% as part of wider public funding cuts, and colleges are facing more cash cuts.

The Scottish Government believes the impact can be offset by money saved through a reorganisation along regional lines, with a number of colleges merging.

But lecturers and students have repeatedly warned the cuts will mean a poorer quality of education, job losses and fewer courses.

The information provided by colleges shows 541 academic staff took voluntary redundancy in 2011/12, while 51 were forced out by compulsory redundancy.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union, made the FoI request. David Belsey, its national officer for further and higher education, said the responses clearly showed the adverse effects of the 10.4% cut.

He said: "A number of additional colleges implied that their student teaching hours were at a minimum. The 38 colleges who responded also stated they had made hundreds of staff redundant and the EIS is gravely concerned the continued exodus of academic staff from colleges is having a detrimental effect on the quality of student learning."

Funding fell by £69 million in 2010/11, from £678m to £609m.

John Henderson, chairman of Scotland's Colleges, which represents college principals, said institutions were working hard to maintain activity levels – but warned further cuts were likely.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "From 2007 until the end of the spending review period we will have invested £4.7 billion in colleges, 40% more than in 1999-2007.

"Our commitment to young people is unwavering and that is why we recently announced an additional £40m for colleges, including £13.1m for maintaining student places."

The Scottish Government has made a commitment to give colleges enough funding to maintain student places in 2012/13.