Scotland colleges have turned away thousands of would-be students due to under-staffing resulting from further education budget cuts, trade unionists warned today.
Figures showed that while the number of college support staff had shrank by 8 per cent over the last year, with 2,200 jobs gone in the last two years, college applications were on the rise.
South Lanarkshire College had to turn away 569 suitable applicants last year and North Glasgow College rejected 936 students due to a lack of places.
Unison Scotland called on Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell to guarantee "proper" staffing levels, as the SNP government plans to hack £34.6m - over 6 per cent - from the further education budget this year.
The union said the sector needed to boost support services to cope, not cull them.
"If further cuts in support staff numbers take place, there won't be enough support staff left in our colleges to answer the phones, never mind provide the proper pre-entry support and guidance which our college applicants require," the unions's further education committee chairman Chris Greenshields said.
The call came just days after Edinburgh College students confronted Mr Russell in person over the cuts. Footage of the incident was posted on YouTube.
A spokesman for Mr Russell said today the secretary was "always willing to directly engage with students."
But waiting lists were not a "robust measure of unmet demand" and many students applied to more than one college, he said.
Foreign Minister Alistair Burt's admission that the Cameron government has "supported" a survey of attitudes to US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas amounts to a tacit admission of British involvement.