The board of a Glasgow college has been removed after months of controversy over governance at the FE institution.
Education secretary Angela Constance announced this morning that she had taken action to replace the chair and all board members at Glasgow Clyde College only weeks after threating the board’s removal in a private letter seen by TES. In a statement, Ms Constance said that the outgoing board had “failed to discharge its duties on a number of counts, including breaching clear rules on expenditure limits, allowing its relationship with student representatives to break down, and failing to investigate governance concerns raised by the principal before her suspension”.
She said that, having considered all the information “and taken into account what is in the best interests and needs of students and staff at the college”, a new board was needed. Ms Constance also announced the members of the new board, which will be chaired by former chief executive of West Lothian Council Alex Linkston.
Glasgow Clyde College had been the subject of much controversy since the suspension of principal Susan Walsh in February. No official reason was given, and an investigative hearing has not yet taken place. In March, the Scottish Funding Council announced a review into governance at the college, carried out by law firm DLA Piper.
In her letter last month, Ms Constance said it seemed to her that the board might have committed “repeated breaches of terms and conditions of a grant made to it [by the SFC] and may have mismanaged its affairs”. Many of her concerns related to the board’s suspension of Ms Walsh, with the letter stating that the principal had raised concerns about college governance “immediately prior” to her suspension and that these concerns had not been considered by the board. The letter also highlighted potential “failings in relation to board decision-making processes”.
Speaking to TES today, Ms Constance said she hoped she had “demonstrated by the action that I have taken that the college and its government are now placed in safe hands”.
Asked if she was concerned that the Glasgow Clyde case was an indication of a wider governance issue in the sector, Ms Constance said she believed that aside from recent documented cases, this was an isolated incident. However, Ms Constance said she planned to write to the Scottish Funding Council “to ask them to inform me of any concerns with any college in the sector”.
But a statement from the dismissed board members said they were “stunned” by the decision, and believed they had “acted properly and with integrity in the best interests of the college, students and staff”.
“The education secretary’s decision today is unprecedented and unjustified. It is open to challenge in the courts,” it said. “We call on the Scottish Parliament’s education committee to conduct a full inquiry into the matter and we are ready to give our evidence.”
The statement added: “The decision raises serious questions about the autonomy of college boards in Scotland and perhaps the charity status of colleges. It also puts at risk getting volunteers for boards in the future... All the dismissed board members are angry that education secretary did not have the courtesy to reply to our detailed response to her questions last month before she sent out dismissal letters today.”