Scotland shakes up governance of post-16 education

28 Jun 12
A planned ‘once in a generation’ revamp of post-16 education in Scotland has won qualified cross-party support at Holyrood.
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 28 June 2012

A planned ‘once in a generation’ revamp of post-16 education in Scotland has won qualified cross-party support at Holyrood.

Announcing the plans to MSPs today, Education Secretary Michael Russell said Scotland’s 41 further education colleges would be rationalised into 13 regional units through merger and governance of the 19 universities would be made more accountable and transparent.

The biggest changes are in FE, where college independence will give way to regional boards, which will oversee streamlined provision in line with local Single Outcome Agreements.

Much of the streamlining will be achieved by merger. In Glasgow, the number of FE colleges will reduce from nine to three and in Edinburgh from three to one. Where colleges do not merge, their in-house boards will be confined to day-to-day issues.

Former First Minister Henry McLeish and ex-BT Scotland director Ian McKay would lead the FE changes in Glasgow and Edinburgh respectively.
Opposition parties welcomed the broad thrust of the reforms but Labour’s Hugh Henry accused ministers of ‘a power grab’ by increasing their influence over the leadership of the new regional bodies.

Russell rejected the charge, arguing that ministers would appoint chairs only to the shadow boards ushering in the FE changes. Permanent FE boards and university courts would be subject to the normal public appointments process.

The reforms follow reviews of the sectors by professors Russell Griggs and Ferdinand Von Prondzynski. Von Prondzynski’s most contentious idea, for elected university principals, has been dropped. But Russell said he supported most of the rest, which prescribe more representative governance under a new code to be drafted in consultation with staff and students. He refused to be drawn on which ideas he rejected, and said the details would be settled in negotiation with stakeholders.

The minister promised to deploy ‘both sticks and carrots’ to ensure university compliance with proposals to widen access. He also confirmed that students from poorer backgrounds would be guaranteed a minimum income of £7,000 a year.

‘I want to see staff and students integrally involved in the delivery of all these changes and, after that, I want to see them integrally involved in the management of their institutions,’ he said.

Holyrood rises today for the summer recess, having ended the session by approving legislation to merge regional police and fire & rescue forces into single national bodies, and to mitigate the impact of UK benefit reforms on devolved matters. 

Finance Secretary John Swinney announced an extra £105m for capital projects, including £35m for housing and £22m to top up support for renewables and low carbon initiatives.

The stimulus package was achieved through savings, underspends, accelerated funding and the fossil fuel levy.


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