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Leading college student association on brink of collapse

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One of Scotland’s leading FE student associations is on the brink of collapse, it has emerged. 

In what NUS Scotland described as a “devastating outcome” for student representation, no candidates have come forward to stand in the election of next year’s student association executive at Glasgow Clyde College. This means that the association will effectively cease to exist once the current team stands down at the end of July. 

The college was rocked in February by the surprise suspension of principal Susan Walsh by the college board. TES understands that students feel deterred from standing by the atmosphere left in the wake of the controversy. It is understood that students have contacted the Scottish government to air their concerns about the situation. 

The nomination period for students wanting to stand for election for 2015-16 closed last week. In the absence of any candidates, no executive officers can now be elected for the start of the next academic year. 

NUS Scotland president-elect Vonnie Sandlan said the situation was a “devastating outcome, not just for Glasgow Clyde students but for all of us who understand the need for college student representation”. 

Glasgow Clyde College Student Association (GCCSA) is widely recognised as one of the most effective student bodies in the Scottish education sector. 

Earlier this year, it was named college student association of the year at the NUS Scotland annual awards. The same team has been shortlisted in the FE student association and officer team of the year categories at the UK-wide NUS awards. 

President Barclay McCrindle, said he was “disappointed” that no one was prepared to succeed him and his colleagues, and stressed that the executive did not want to see the legacy they had built “in tatters”. He added that the team had done “everything we can” to find applicants. 

Ms Sandlan said the association’s achievements and its passion had been “nothing short of inspirational”. 

“To now see that legacy stand at risk is devastating,” she said. “We can only hope that come next year, students will once again feel comfortable to put themselves forward for election, and we can ensure the continued successes of the incredible students’ association they deserve. But it’s difficult to see how that happens under the status quo.”

The situation the students at Glasgow Clyde College had found themselves in, she said, was “absolutely not one of their own making”. 

After the suspension of Ms Walsh, the chair of the college board, George Chalmers, faced complaints over the treatment of student representatives in a board meeting, a vote of no confidence from the student association and a demonstration calling for his resignation. 

“Students feel justifiably apprehensive about standing for election under the current board leadership and atmosphere,” Ms Sandlan said. She called on the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Scottish government to take action. 

A spokesman for Mr Chalmers said: “The college board of management approved the student association’s proposals for new sabbatical posts some weeks ago. It is the responsibility of the student association to seek nominations from students for the election to the sabbatical posts for 2015-16.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said: “In a month where the education secretary launched new guidance to develop and sustain strong and effective associations, we want to ensure that college boards do all they can to maintain a high level of confidence between students and colleges.”

She added that education secretary Angela Constance had recently met student association leaders from Glasgow Clyde College, and that the SFC was “working with the college to ensure there remains a strong and effective association”. 

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