Reshuffle of top jobs

Neil Munro

Musical chairs have been a feature of Scottish further education in recent weeks, as new appointments to the top jobs take effect.

The main ripple was caused by the departure of Susan Walsh from Edinburgh's Stevenson College to become principal of Cardonald College in Glasgow. Brian Lister, the former principal of Cumbernauld College, now replaces her in Stevenson. He has been succeeded at Cumbernauld by Martin McGuire, who was acting principal. Mr Lister, who began his career as a secondary teacher, was also acting chief executive of the Scottish Further Education Unit and his replacement there on a temporary basis is John McCann, the depute chief executive of the unit.

The SFEU, the Association of Scotland's Colleges and Scotland's Colleges International are to merge into a single entity under a chief executive whose identity will be unveiled imminently, following a round of interviews on Tuesday.

Troubled Kilmarnock College, savaged in an HMIE report, also has a new principal, Heather Dunk, who was assistant principal in charge of innovation and quality at West Lothian College.

These appointments have given rise to speculation about whether college mergers might be given a significant boost. The likelihood is reinforced by the hands-on approach of John McClelland, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, who gave his strong backing to the proposal from Central College in Glasgow that the four city-centre colleges in Glasgow should merge into one (TESS last week).

One of the most fascinating areas of speculation centres on Napier University in Edinburgh, which has developed very close links with Stevenson and Carnegie colleges. Joan Stringer, Napier's principal, is believed to harbour a strong desire to preside over what would be Scotland first merger between higher and further education institutions.

Depending on the outcome of the interviews for the colleges' supremo, with at least one principal believed to be on the short leet, another Lothian college could also become involved in such a merger. East of Scotland colleges are close associates.

In the west, the arrival of Heather Dunk in Kilmarnock could set up a strategic alliance with James Watt College in Greenock and its outpost in Kilwinning, where the principal is her former boss at West Lothian, Sue Pinder. There have also been rumbles in the past about possible links involving Kilmarnock and Ayr colleges and the University of the West of Scotland, whose main centres are in Paisley and Ayr.

The pressures for merger are likely to grow more acute in the coming years, as colleges look to combine their resources in the face of the issues which Howard McKenzie, acting chief executive of the Association of Scottish Colleges, raised with MSPs last week.

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Neil Munro

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