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College capers

The first meeting between the Education Minister and college principals and board chairs was a jolly affair made jollier still when Ray Murray, the Thurso principal, brought greetings to Brian Wilson from "Jimmy Fry", presumably a Labour worthy from Caithness.

Not to be outdone Ray Bailey, principal at Cardonald, said "Big Tam from Pollok sends his regards" - clearly an even more mythical figure.

Dunkeld House Hotel is a pleasant place for the principals to relax away from revolting unions and balancing their sums. They were cheered, too, to hear Ed Weeple, head of FE at the Scottish Office, pay tribute to their sterling achievements over the past four years.

But Jim Thomson, who chairs Clackmannan College's board, was less enamoured of the previous government's strategy which he said had "led a number of colleges to the verge of bankruptcy and a number of principals to the verge of breakdown". Even college chairs had agreed, Thomson said, "that we must have a concern for our principals".

The colleges do not, however, feel they are uniquely badly done by. Jim Neil, principal of Dumfries and Galloway College, acknowledged: "All four home countries, while there may be some differences in the detail of their funding methodology, share one thing in common which is that they are rather long on methodology and rather short on funding."

And yes, you've guessed it, to get on in the world of FE you have to be called either Ray or Jim.

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