A SHORTAGE of vital bursary and support funds for college students has been addressed by ministers.

The Scottish Government announced extra funding of £7 million for colleges this year to ensure students were not missing out.

The move comes after it emerged demand from college students for bursaries and childcare allowances was outstripping available funds.

In December, it was revealed that colleges were facing a shortfall of more than £11m in financial support in 2014/15, but this was later revised to £7m.

Angela Constance, the education secretary, said: "In the last few years, colleges have successfully targeted our priority groups, which has increased the cost of student support.

"Protecting learners has always been our priority and I am very pleased that we have been able to work with the Scottish Funding Council and colleges on a solution that ensures there is no gap in support for this year."

Student body NUS Scotland welcomed the announcement, but warned it was a "short-term fix" which still left a "flawed and underfunded" system in place.

Gordon Maloney, president of NUS Scotland, said: "With colleges previously reporting a shortfall of many million of pounds there were real concerns that students starting their courses in January might see significantly reduced financial help or miss out entirely.

"We hope this will see college students through to the end of their courses this year, but at this stage the money won't go beyond that. We must now find a solution in next week's Budget for the future.

"Extra money this year is welcome, but we need to see long-term investment and reform of the system to ensure we don't continue to see continual budget shortfalls."

There was also a welcome from opposition politicians, but they also warned a longer term solution needed to be found.

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour's education spokesman, said: "Thank goodness the Scottish Government have finally bridged the shortfall in funding for college student's bursaries. The system is flawed and it needs fixed, not patched up every year."

Liam McArthur, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, added: "I'm pleased the Scottish Government has taken heed of calls from students and opposition parties to make up for the shortfall in college student support this year.

"A long term commitment from the Scottish Government is needed if college students are to be assured the Scottish Government won't pull the rug from underneath them next year."