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Funders take first steps to merger

THE two funding councils have taken their first tentative steps towards full merger.

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council and the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council met last week and agreed to draw up a joint corporate strategy which they will publish, after consultation with both sectors, in late summer. The councils are also exploring the idea of having joint committees.

Roger McClure, chief executive of the two councils, commented: "Our starting point is that a joint council is inevitable. But we haven't waited to be pushed."

A clear steer towards a merger came in the annual letter of guidance to the councils from Iain Gray, Lifelong Learning Minister. Mr Gray said it was "more important than ever that both funding councils continue to collaborate".

He said he expected the councils to work together on analysing the demand for students and the capacity of both sectors to respond.

The parliamentary report on lifelong learning has recommended a single tertiary funding council and Mr Gray is expected to give this the green light when he publishes his lifelong learning strategy the week after next.

The lifelong learning report from MSPs suggested that the councils should merge in around five years' time. In one of the few wholehearted responses to the report, Mr Gray said in his statement to the Scottish Parliament that he "supports this general approach and will develop specific proposals".

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