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'Chaos college' decimates staff

The Government's injection of Pounds 214 million into further education has not brought the sector's problems to an end as the troubled Reid Kerr College in Paisley announced plans to make a tenth of its academic and support staff redundant by November.

Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, to which most academic staff belong, said it had held off authorising a ballot on industrial action pending "urgent clarification" from the college.

Reid Kerr says it hopes to make progress in reducing its workforce voluntarily by up to 45 full-time posts out of a total of 470 staff. But it added in a statement that "the level of savings required suggests there is little prospect of avoiding compulsory redundancies".

The Paisley college received a hammering from HMI earlier this year. Its management was judged only "fair" on six counts of performance, one step away from the lowest rating of "unsatisfactory".

Reid Kerr says it is being forced by the Scottish Office to bring its costs into line with the rest of FE. It has accumulated a deficit of Pounds 878, 000 over the past three years and its Government grant for the current year was cut by Pounds 492,000.

Official figures show student hours delivered by a full-time lecturer are 18 per cent below the national average, a major reason for cutting staff costs to find savings this year of Pounds 829,000.

Matthew Aird, the principal, said: "This is a situation which I very much regret but, for the sake of existing and prospective students, we have to act quickly. The scope for manoeuvre is reducing with each week that passes. "

John Kelly, branch secretary of the EIS's College Lecturers' Association, said lecturers had not had a pay rise for over two years. Referring to the HMI report, Mr Kelly said: "Despite a glowing report for lecturers at the college, they are rewarded with redundancy. Despite an awful report for management, they award themselves pay rises."

The union accused Mr Aird of presiding over "mismanagement and chaos".

* The first of an expected rash of mergers could be on the cards in the south-west as Dumfries and Galloway College announced it is to explore a link with the nearby Barony College.

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