Regional college principals to keep key powers

Plans to downgrade their roles have been voted down in Parliament

Julia Belgutay

Regional college principals will retain key decision-making powers after controversial plans to downgrade their roles were voted down in Parliament this week.

The decision means that principals will remain as full board members, which goes against a recommendation from Professor Russel Griggs in his review of college governance.

The EIS had backed the plans to take powers away from principals, claiming that some had exercised excessive power, and that a clearer division between governors and managers would therefore be desirable.

But the recommendation had caused anger among principals, who felt it would limit their power and ability to contribute to decision-making within the college.

One told TESS it "would have felt uncomfortable" to be charged with the day-to-day business of the college and not have full membership when there were student and staff representatives on the board. Colleges Scotland had also warned that leaving ambiguity in the bill on the role of principals on boards could lead to national inconsistencies.

In a U-turn, the government decided to table the amendment to the post-16 education bill this week.

"I have been persuaded that the best course is to remove any debate on the membership of the principal, although this does go against the Griggs review," education secretary Michael Russell told the committee.

John Henderson, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said he welcomed "that the Scottish government has accepted it is essential that college principals are also board members and that will now be protected in this bill".

One principal told TESS: "It is very important if one is tasked with the leadership of a college to be able to sit on that board to give advice and participate fully in debate and issues of strategy and policy that come up."

At the education committee on Tuesday, Mr Russell also pledged his support for a code of governance for the college sector.

The idea of a code in FE was suggested by Colleges Scotland in its evidence on the bill, which as it stands would allow ministers to approve and remove members of regional college boards. The sector fears this would impair college autonomy.

Amendments to the bill to introduce such a code, similar to that already planned for the university sector, will not be voted on until next week, but with both the government and opposition politicians having spoken out in support, it is expected they will be agreed.

Mr Russell told the committee that he was "happy to support" the introduction of a code, although he intended for it to "sit alongside" the governmental powers suggested in the bill, rather than replace them.

Mr Henderson said: "We would still see such a code as able to replace the proposed level of control from ministers to approve, remove or replace college board members, which we remain concerned is a shift away from responsible college autonomy."


Students have welcomed the decision by the Scottish parliament's education committee not to pass an amendment that would have limited the power of the Scottish Funding Council to hold universities to account over their widening access record.

"We're pleased that MSPs have recognised that the SFC must have the power to ensure that institutions are doing all they can to set themselves robust and meaningful targets, and are working to achieve those targets. Similarly, we support moves as part of the legislation for staff and students to be fully and properly consulted on widening access," said NUS Scotland president Robin Parker.

The committee debated suggested amendments to the post-16 education bill on widening access last week.

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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