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Scottish support staff deliver "damning" verdict on college regionalisation

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Two-thirds of Scottish support staff feel college services have deteriorated since the sector was reorganised along regional lines, according to a survey by Unison.

The union’s report Learning the Hard Way, published today, finds that only 15 per cent of Unison members in colleges believe that services have improved following the regionalisation process, which involved many colleges merging, creating larger, regional institutions.  

And there is little hope of improvement – 77 per cent of respondents said they were doubtful services would get better within a year, while 90 per cent said they thought the sector was underfunded. Three in four support staff viewed the mood among staff at their college as "quite" or "extremely negative".

Over 200 Unison members from 16 different colleges responded to the survey.

Chris Greenshields, chair of the Unison FE committee said the survey was “damning”, adding: “Trust in management is at an all-time low. Ordinary staff are appalled at the large pay-offs that unaccountable senior managers have been paying themselves while Unison members are working harder and longer hours to try to maintain the quality of services they offered before the mergers and redundancies across the whole sector.

“College management and the Scottish government need to listen to the staff. We are here to work with the Scottish government to make that vital difference. But it is getting increasingly difficult. I'ts time warm words are translated into better pay and conditions for staff who are delivering despite real problems. If we don’t do something soon we can expect real industrial relation problems in the sector.”

But Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, insisted regionalised institutions were “delivering for students, communities, businesses and the wider economy”. She said: “Yes, the landscape has changed but new evidence, an economic impact analysis of the sector in Scotland, shows that Scotland’s colleges contribute £14.9 billion to the Scottish economy each year. That’s 8.8 per cent of the total economic output of the nation. For every £1 spent on college education, £6.30 is returned to the economy."

Ms Struthers added that it was vital for colleges to receive adequate revenue and capital investment to enable them to continue delivering. “As a sector we are working to protect existing funding streams and seek further investment where possible.”

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