Post-16 - Unhappy staff hit out at City of Glasgow

Low morale is rife in college hailed as a model for regionalisation

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Staff at Scotland's biggest college, which has been hailed as an example for other merging institutions to follow, are unhappy and "feel disenfranchised", according to a study.

City of Glasgow College staff are focused "on their survival, their department and not on the end user or client", a review due to be shared with employees this week says.

The culture of the college, which was created in September 2010 from the merger of Central College, Glasgow Metropolitan College and Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, means it is performing "well below average on all outcomes", the review finds.

Staff reported problems with communication, "employee satisfaction" and "commitment to customer service", according to the independent study, which compared performance against a benchmark of 700 other organisations from a range of sectors.

"Scoring below average on employee satisfaction is an indicator of a workforce that is not engaged," the study says. "If your organisation is not committed to customer service, what are they committed to?"

City of Glasgow's problems raise wider questions about the regionalisation process that has resulted in colleges across Scotland merging to form bigger institutions.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS teaching union, which represents college lecturers, said that the mood among teaching staff at City of Glasgow was one of "frustration" because the process of harmonising the terms and conditions of staff had "effectively been stalled". "It is clear that this report identifies a number of issues of significant concern that the management of the college must take steps to address," he added.

"Many of the issues highlighted in the report, such as lack of staff engagement and resulting low morale, are indicative of the types of poor management practice that have been so widespread in many colleges - and which the regionalisation programme is seeking to address."

It would take time and commitment from colleges to overcome these problems, Mr Flanagan said.

City of Glasgow principal Paul Little said that the study was only one of many measures the college was using to assess culture and progress after the merger.

He explained that The Pacific Institute, the company that carried out the research, had compared the college with hundreds of organisations. "As we have a world-class mission, it is important that we benchmark ourselves as a college on a worldwide stage," he said. The results for City of Glasgow were similar to many other colleges', he added.

He also said that it was important to distinguish between a "snapshot survey" and a longer-term analysis.

However, Mr Little agreed that the college had been involved in protracted discussions on issues such as pay that might have affected morale. He added that, in a large organisation such as the college, it was possible at any point to find disgruntled staff.

"That has to do with climate, not culture," he said. "I am more interested in the long term."

He said that colleges were slow-changing institutions and that City of Glasgow was only three years into a 10-year process. The institution was therefore taking "a long-term approach" on cultural change.

Mr Little said that individuals - be they staff or students - were at the heart of the college's values and that he wanted the culture to be one of "equality, excellence and innovation".

The creation of City of Glasgow preceded the government's regionalisation agenda, but it has been hailed as an example of a successful merger by both the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Scottish government.

Welcoming a report by the SFC, education secretary Michael Russell said in May this year: "As other colleges around the country move towards a system of regional working - including a number of other possible mergers - to create a sector that delivers the best possible benefits for both students and employers, other institutions could learn a lot from the Glasgow model.

"This merger was well planned, closely consulted on and has created tangible benefits for all involved."

Earlier this month, it was confirmed that the government would contribute pound;228 million to the college's new "super campus". Built on two sites and expected to be completed in 2016, it will be able to accommodate 40,000 students.

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