A last-minute change to the SNP's budget today will soften the cuts blow to Scotland's colleges - but NHS and most government workers will only receive a 1 per cent pay rise.
Finance Secretary John Swinney plans to reinstate £10 million in the next financial year for colleges facing a £35m cut.
The new total college fund of £522m will be matched in 2014, rather than cut to £471m as planned.
Mr Swinney said it was all his party could do "with the limited powers ar our disposal."
But the National Union of Students said the £25m cut was still "damaging."
President Robin Parker said it would come amid "huge structural change" due to the SNP's "regionalisation" policy of merging facilities.
"We need to ensure colleges can get through this year without damage to students and we fear cuts on this scale could have really negative consequences."
And STUC general secretary Grahame Smith said the college cuts were still "unprecedented.
"While a £10m increase in funding is useful, it needs to be focused on college teaching budgets and it needs to be seen in the context of the £35m cut that colleges are facing this year.
"The reality is, despite this rise, college budgets are still under pressure and the education of our young people is still under threat.
The cuts come amid rising demand for college courses.
Official figures released last month found that 5,800 students were turned away from packed colleges in 2012.
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