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Shetland awaits judgment and vindication over council review

Staff at Shetland College agreed that a review of further and higher education and training in Shetland should be undertaken and that this would involve the North Atlantic Fisheries College, Shetland College and Shetland Islands Council Training Section (your report last week).

At the time, we raised concerns about the independence of the report as the manager of the training section was to carry out the review. We were told our attitude was "unhelpful".

We are happy to be judged by the HMI report which is due out on March 8 and are happy that this independent report will describe a different college from the one described in the council's best value review.

Shetland College staff asked for a deferral of the report so that the independent HMI report and the council's review could be read together and so that staff could be consulted on the review. At no stage was there a satisfactory explanation as to why the review had to be considered ahead of the HMI report and the response to the Shetland College recovery plan by the Scottish Further Education Funding Council.

The problem with the review is that the methodology was suspect, with many areas of college life neither understood nor investigated.

Apart from the island's council, we are answerable to the further and higher education funding councils, HMI, the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Scottish Quality Management System, Investors in People, the Construction Industry Training Board and Shetland Enterprise.

If Shetland College was as awful as stated in the review, one of these would have pointed this out by now.Student numbers are not falling as stated. Our figures are as follows: 392 in 1999-2000, 445 in 2000-01 and 456 in 2001-02 to date. This does not include 1,400 short course students annually.

We would argue that Shetland College is not "insolvent". We have sufficient funds to meet our liabilities. The college to date has not cost the islands council a penny. In fact, we are and have been a contributor to SIC funds: through two pro-perty leases and charges, we pay for council services.

Some of the proposals suggested in the review would cut Shetland College out from activities which would generate SUMs, the student units of measurement which is to be the new basis for our funding. Some of these activities would be given to other council departments who cannot claim SUMs, thereby incurring further costs to Shetlands Islands Council.

Brian Nugent Secretary, EIS College Lecturers' Association, Shetland College

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