College pays pound;50K for principal to join the Harvard elite

NUS questions cost of leadership course amid financial squeeze

Julia Belgutay

Students have questioned a decision by City of Glasgow College to spend tens of thousands of pounds sending its principal on an eight-week management course in the US.

Paul Little is currently enrolled on the advanced management programme at Harvard Business School. According to the university's website, the programme costs $75,000 (pound;49,343).

This is the latest controversy to hit further education in the city after former first minister Henry McLeish last week announced his resignation as chair of the Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board (see panel, right). He had been in post for three years.

`Life-altering' programme

According to Harvard, the advanced management programme is aimed at "an elite group of global senior executives who are proven business leaders". The course is described as a "life-altering and career-changing programme designed to accelerate your personal and professional growth". The university suggests that participants will return to their organisation "with the skills, insights, and confidence to lead change, drive innovation, and sustain a competitive advantage".

Previous speakers have included former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson and James F Amos, former commandant of the US Marine Corps; other guests have included the chief executive of global financial giant Goldman Sachs and a former director of the FBI.

Budget pressures

Vonnie Sandlan, president-elect of the NUS Scotland students' union, questioned whether the course was the best use of funding at a time of fiscal strain across the sector.

"Personal development opportunities are hugely important to ensure strong leadership," she said, "but when we know there [are] real pressures on funding just now, many might question if this was the right choice, given the circumstances and the impact it could have on other budgets."

A spokesman for the college insisted Mr Little's participation on the course "stands to benefit Scotland's further education sector, as well as City of Glasgow College, as it strives to confirm its position as a world leader in learning".

He added: "The college is extremely proud of its principal for being accepted by Harvard Business School for such a prestigious course."

"The cost of principal Little's enrolment on the course is considered as an investment by the college board in its ambition to enhance City of Glasgow College's global vision."

Mr Little's participation was supported by the college board, the spokesman added, with costs met from "the pound;1 million surplus generated by the college's commercial activities, and not from public funds".

McLeish steps down from Glasgow board

Former first minister Henry McLeish has announced his resignation as chair of the Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board after three years in post.

The news came days after he stepped down as chair of Colleges Scotland to focus on his work for the regional board.

Mr McLeish's tenure has not been free of controversy. In March 2014, TESS revealed the office of the former first minister had claimed more than pound;135,000 in costs and expenses from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in his time as lead of the Glasgow college region - more than the other regions put together.

It also emerged that more than pound;370,000 would be diverted away from Glasgow colleges to fund the regional board this year. This news came as the SFC announced plans to take action over the board's "insufficient progress".

Last month four members resigned from the regional board, all citing concerns over governance.

Soon afterwards, TESS reported questions raised over the board's role in the suspension and investigation of the principal of Glasgow Clyde College.

In a statement, Mr McLeish said: "This is an appropriate point to spend more time on [other] important interests and move on from a position which, although very rewarding, has also been very demanding in terms of time, commitment and travel."

Gordon Maloney, president of the NUS Scotland students' union, said Mr McLeish's resignation was "right for the board, the region and, most importantly, students".

Brian Smith, Glasgow branch secretary for the support staff union Unison, said questions had to be asked "about the amount of time and energy.spent by highly paid staff in the sector engaging in a damaging public squabble over who wields power in colleges within Glasgow".

SFC board member Ali Jarvis has been appointed as interim chair.

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