College mergers lead to increased workload for lecturers, survey reveals

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Four out of five Scottish college lecturers claim their work­load has increased following a major shake-up of the country’s FE colleges which resulted in series of mergers.

As colleges across England face the prospect of area reviews, designed to result in a smaller number of larger providers, a survey by the Further Education Lecturers' Association (EIS-FELA) union north of the border offers some warnings about the impact of widespread institutional reforms.

Of the teaching staff surveyed, 81 per cent said their workload has increased after the mergers. In addition, 89 per cent felt that teaching and learning have not been improved by the changes.

The Scottish government announced its regionalisation agenda four years ago as part of a drive for increased efficiency and ac­countability, and to improve the offer to college students. The majority of mergers formally took place around two years ago, and most of the 13 regions now contain only one large college.

Some 950 lecturers responded to the survey, with 91 per cent saying they did not believe mergers had improved college management, and only 14 per cent saying their community was better served by the merged college. In its special report on the mergers, EIS-FELA says: “It is very clear that the merged colleges have, in the view of their staff, failed to deliver improvements in many of the educational areas that they were sup­posed to do so.”

The report goes on to highlight that mergers across Scotland led to the “loss of thousands of experienced staff from the sector”, which affected colleges’ ability to maintain teaching activity and contacts with local communities.

An Audit Scotland report published this year said the number of college staff fell by 9.3 per cent between 2011-12 and 2013-14.

Shona Struthers, chief executive of Col­leges Scotland, said that colleges had coped well: “We are proud that colleges have maintained high-quality teaching and support for students, which has been recognised by govern­mental bodies. Following the merger process, we believe that Scotland’s colleges are now in a bet­ter position to meet the needs of students and employers at a local, regional and national level.”

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