COLLEGE lecturers have halted their strike action thanks to education bosses agreeing to the deal they made a year ago.

The Further Education Lecturers' Association of the EIS union (EIS-FELA) suspended walkouts set for next week as students in Clydebank and across Scotland feared for their work and study futures.

West College Scotland staff were set to escalate their strikes to three days in each of the next two weeks to force Colleges Scotland to cave in on the national fight.

Education Secretary John Swinney finally intervened in the dispute earlier in the week and employed top mediation expert John Sturrock to resolve the dispute.

He had urged the unions to call off the strikes during talks but said he would not force a resolution.

In a joint statement on Friday evening, Colleges Scotland and the union said: "Following a period of intensive negotiations, agreement has been reached between the employers and the EIS.

"This has led to the immediate suspension of strike action by the EIS and will enable college management to implement the March 2016 agreement.

"After the meeting, Colleges Scotland and the EIS welcomed this breakthrough and are delighted that disruption to student learning has been brought to an end.

"Both sides expressed the hope that this would provide a sound foundation for the college sector moving forward."

The dispute centred on a deal struck last year to ensure all lecturers in Scotland were on equal pay grades. But the EIS said Colleges Scotland reneged as college bosses expected them to pay for the 2016 deal with worse conditions.

Students feared losing a year of education because of the worsening dispute even as West College Scotland said it was making "every effort" to make sure students weren't disadvantaged.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: "We have reached a position where Colleges Scotland have agreed to honour the deal. This is a significant victory for EIS-FELA members and it means that the employers will move immediately to implement phase one of the March 2016 pay agreement.

"EIS-FELA members are thanked for their magnificent support and solidarity throughout this campaign – which has been focused since the start on making management honour the deal.

"The members’ action has secured this win which will see equal pay delivered across the sector and create equitable common terms and conditions for the sector moving forward. This success by lecturers will also inspire other public sector workers fighting for fair pay.”

A spokeswoman for the Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association said: “We are pleased that we’ve reached an agreement, subject to ratification, which not only means an end to the strikes but also, crucially, ensures that colleges can return to business as usual. This is a positive step forward for everyone involved.”