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EIS appeals to Education Secretary to put #163;300m project on hold

Union raises major concerns over proposed merger of three Glasgow city colleges, claiming the time is not right

Union raises major concerns over proposed merger of three Glasgow city colleges, claiming the time is not right

The first heavyweight salvo has been fired against the merger of Glasgow's three city centre colleges, as the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) appeals to the Education Secretary to put the move on hold.

Ronnie Smith, EIS general secretary, has suggested Michael Russell "withhold his approval" until what the union sees as major concerns are dealt with.

Its intervention in the pound;300 million project, which will create a new City of Glasgow College from the merger of Glasgow Metropolitan College, Central College and the Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, will come as unwelcome news to Paul Little, the ebullient evangelist for the project who is the college's principal designate.

He told The TESS: "I believe this is a project whose time has come."

But the EIS says the time is not right. In his letter, Mr Smith (right) says there has been "no sound educational rationale" to justify vast expenditure on the merger, that there has been no guarantee over compulsory redundancies and that insufficient progress has been made to harmonise the pay and conditions in the three colleges.

He also expresses concern for the future of Stow College, which pulled out of the merger talks. Its future "hangs in the balance", he told Mr Russell, and added: "We do not believe that the college can continue to be viable unless it is brought fully into the merger process."

A joint protest was organised last week by Unison, the union which represents the colleges' support staff, in protest at what it sees as the threat to Stow. Along with the college's students, it released 75 balloons in Glasgow city centre, marking the number of years of Stow's existence.

Unison claims the Scottish Funding Council aims to transfer over half of Stow's courses to the new college, endangering more than 300 jobs and 4,000 student places, "potentially rendering the college unviable".

The funding council has promised that "any changes will be introduced over time and that the stability of college provision in the city will be safeguarded throughout the development of the project".

Meanwhile, the board at Glasgow Met approved the "transitional arrangements" for the deal last week, subject to an amendment on governance being incorporated in the final version. The college says this will not delay the official "vesting day" beyond the planned date of August 1.

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