Cutting the revenue budget for colleges is the right thing to do, according to the Education Secretary.
Intended reforms to the sector will allow institutions to do more with less, Michael Russell told MSPs on Holyrood's Education Committee during scrutiny of the Scottish Government budget.
He said: "I'm not going to shy away from the fact that by the end of the spending review period we'll be putting less revenue support into colleges. That's been a difficult decision but it's the right one. The reforms will deliver more with less. They're already doing so."
Audit Scotland, the organisation responsible for scrutinising public spending, earlier found that the revenue grant for colleges is likely to fall from £545 million in 2011-12 to £471 million in 2014-15, a 24% reduction in real terms.
Mr Russell said those figures fail to factor in an additional £67.5 million added to the system so far. He also took issue with opposition concerns about reduced numbers of staff and students.
He added: "I'm not disagreeing, I'm explaining that there are circumstances which add information which is necessary to understand."
Labour MSP Neil Findlay claimed that the Cabinet Secretary inhabits a parallel world.
He said: "In the world of the Cabinet Secretary we have cuts being exaggerated, waiting lists being exaggerated, job losses being exaggerated and improving staff relations. In the real world we have 70,000 places cut, we have capital cut by £82 million and 1,300 staff lost their jobs. Is all this wrong?"
Mr Russell, in turn, accused him of trying to justify Labour's position against SNP policy.
"The reality of this is there is a difficult process of change," said Mr Russell. "It is progressive change, it is change driven by financial circumstances coming from Westminster and by a desire to deliver more and better for Scotland's young people."