THE number of departments at Borders College will be slashed from 11 to seven to cut costs and respond to changing demands. Four department heads and up to eight lecturers risk losing their jobs out of 376 staff.
The college is not one of the nine being bailed out by the pound;7 million recovery package announced by the funding council last week, but says it has to continue coping with the consequences of a 0.7 per cent rise in support this year, effectively a below-inflation cut.
Bob Murray, the college principal, says the rationalisation is also driven by changing patterns in demand for courses. The latest moves involve the engineering department combining with construction, general education and computing moving into business administration and catering being amalgamated with hairdressing.
This will mean a loss of 28 courses out of 700. "While it is never easy to reduce jobs, sadly but inevitably the rationalisation moves we are taking will mean that up to 12 posts may have to go," Dr Murray said.
The college hopes staff can be redeployed or leave voluntarily but it has refused to rule out compulsory departures.
The departments selected for the axe were running courses where student numbers are "at best marginal and at worst simply uneconomic", Dr Murray said. He met union representatives last Friday.
Dr Murray said: "Many colleges in Scotland are facing similar pressures, but Borders College believes that the best route forward for all our staff and students will be to achieve the balance needed between adequacy and efficiency of course provision, and to maintain our emphasis on keeping all possible basic skills training in vocational courses."
He stressed that the rationing of departments was unnconnected to plans for the college which could see a single campus headquarters linked to a number of "satellite locations" in key Borders towns.
Borders has been at loggerheads with the funding council for some time over what it claims is an unfair deal for rural colleges.
Dr Murray pointed out that three of the five colleges identified as being at risk in last year's Audit Scotland report on the financial health of the FE sector and five of the 12 showing significant budget deficits are located in sparsely populated areas. These colleges have the greatest difficulty in boosting student numbers and therefore funding support.
The funding council believes, however, that it has a more transparent system in place which allows colleges to plan in advance for what they are likely to receive.