Scotland's Colleges to be restructured after damning review

The umbrella body for further education colleges in Scotland is to be restructured following a damning review into its governance

Julia Belgutay

The review into Scotland's Colleges, commissioned by the body itself and carried out by former BBC Scotland controller John McCormick, found that some chairs and principals viewed the organisation as "dysfunctional" and "muddled" and described its structural arrangements as "confused", "awkward" and "unworkable".

Mr McCormick, a former chair of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, reiterated long-standing criticisms from within the sector - that the organisation was unable to "speak with one voice" and was regarded widely as "lacking focus and clear strategy".

Its structure was complicated, with overlapping remits and activities between the chairs' congress and the principals' convention. Combined with a lack of agreed protocols and formal processes, this led to confusion and frustration among members.

The lack of rules also meant individuals "felt able to dissociate themselves from their conclusions and adopt contradictory positions openly".

One incident from 2010 was repeatedly cited as an example. It is understood to be Scotland's Colleges' announcement of a review of higher education by former first minister Henry McLeish, made without the knowledge of chairs or principals.

The subsequent fall-out led to an "embarrassing climbdown, harming the reputation of Scotland's Colleges", said Mr McCormick.

He also highlighted concerns raised by the Scottish Funding Council over a potential conflict of interest between the lobbying activities of Scotland's Colleges and its Next Practice (mainly continuing professional development) provision, funded largely the SFC.

The review does not recommend a break-up of Scotland's Colleges into two organisations, but calls instead for it to be renamed Colleges Scotland - echoing the HE body Universities Scotland - and for two separate boards to be established, each with different responsibilities.

One would be responsible for the delivery of CPD work and the good running of the organisation, with the second in charge of its advocacy and communications strategy.

To ensure the organisation was able to "speak with one voice", the chief executive "should be the regular, accepted spokesman".

Scotland's Colleges chief executive John Henderson said the organisation was going to "hit the ground running" on implementing the recommendations, with both new boards in place by the autumn.

"It is going to be a bit of a watershed for the organisation in terms of our accountability, and I would also like it to be a watershed in our relationship with government and other stakeholders.

"They will see us more clearly as that single door into the sector and representing the views of the sector in a way that we struggled in recent years to achieve," he said.

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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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