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No FE mergers at all in Scotland;Seventh annual FE conference

Neil Munro reports on the seventh annual FE conference in Perth, sponsored by The TES Scotland and Perth College

* There have been no FE mergers at all in Scotland since incorporation. Brian Wilson, the education minister, has rejected the only proposal to have reached him, between the Glasgow colleges of Building and Printing and Food Technology.

Mr Wilson has indeed sparked criticism by sanctioning additional FE centres in Kilwinning in North Ayrshire and in Benbecula in the Western Isles, which will be outposts respectively of James Watt College and Lews Castle College. He has also been forced to come to the rescue of Inverness and Clydebank colleges.

In an interview this week marking Labour's first year in power, Mr Wilson reiterated his intention to promote closer collaboration between colleges. He said he did not apologise for creating an FE presence in areas where it was needed. "This does not mean there should be no rationalisation and I would say that Ayrshire in particular is ripe for rationalisation," the Minister said.

Mr Wilson acknowledged that FE deserves extra funding at the same time. "It also deserves higher esteem because a lot of other Government objectives depend on it - the new deal for the young unemployed, tackling skill shortages, reinforcing links with industry and special needs training.

"I would like to get serious extra money into FE. On the other hand, the sector has a lot of problems to do with wasteful competition and governance. I realise sympathy is not enough, but I do want to stress that I am aware of the problems."

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