Lecturers have hit out at a Scottish college’s £400,000 bill for PR support, saying money should be spent on frontline services instead.
In its November bulletin, the regional committee of the EIS FELA teaching union – which represents FE lecturers – said City of Glasgow College, one of the largest colleges in Scotland, had paid £365,205 to communications consultancy Halogen Communications.
The union questioned why education secretary John Swinney had not acted to “put an end to all unnecessary expenditure in the FE sector and insist the tens of millions currently being squandered are invested in frontline services instead”.
'Clarity and Openness'
And a spokesman for EIS said: “The EIS-FELA branch requested this information in the interests of clarity and openness regarding the college’s spending on externally sourced PR. It is a matter for the college to justify as to the financial cost of this external activity.”
City of Glasgow College confirmed Halogen Communications had been contracted by the college – and that contract was ongoing. However, a spokeswoman said the amount cited by the union was significantly above what the agency currently received for their services – although she did not say how much the business was currently being paid. She explained the time period covered by the Freedom of Information request had seen an unprecedented level of activity during those years, immediately following the merger that created the college.
This included high-profile campus openings and visits by the first minister and royalty, she said, adding: "Our £228 million super college is at the forefront of transforming technical and professional education in the UK. It is regrettable that FELA do not agree that an institution of our scale and ambition requires significant external support across a number of work streams.”
She said engaging fully with governments, industry, strategic partners, community groups and wider stakeholders across the globe was “essential to our success”. “We also want to ensure the excellent work of our staff, achievements of our students and direct links with industry are recognised and celebrated. Halogen Communications is a respected PR and public affairs agency with international expertise in these areas and was appointed via the appropriate due process."
A spokesman for the Scottish Funding Council did not comment on the specific case, but said colleges in Scotland did “an amazing job for learners, employers and communities and it’s important to get this message out to people. In this, as in all other areas, they need to demonstrate best practice”.