St Andrew's hangover

THE leadership of Glasgow University has to do more to win the confidence of the Roman Catholic community following the fraught merger of the education faculty with St Andrew's College.

In a confidential report for Iain Gray, Lifelong Learning Minister, the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council lists a chorus of complaints from leading representatives of Catholic education.

The council refrains from endorsing these criticisms, preferring to urge the university to provide "more rigorous management and leadership of the merger", to ensure better communication and consultation and to improve relations with the Board of Catholic Education, which represents the interests of Catholic students in the faculty.

Although the funding council takes a cautious line, it is clearly sufficiently concerned by "significant difficulties" to indicate that it will carry out a second evaluation of the merger next June. The report hints at a clash of cultures within the university.

Concerns were voiced by the Catholic Head Teachers' Association of Scotland, former governors of St Andrew's College and representatives of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference. Charges included:

* Less priority being given to Catholic students.

* Failure to target prospective Catholic students, leading to a shortage of new Catholic teachers.

* Insufficient information to allow the Board of Catholic Education to function properly.

* Inadequate resourcing.

* Reluctance by some university staff to respect the Catholic dimension in the faculty.

The funding council rejects complaints about resourcing and claims of a reduction in the number of Catholic teachers. In a clear effort to placate all sides, its report repeatedly makes clear that even critics believe that a merger was the right way forward.

But the report does acknowledge that problems of perception have bedevilled the merger and it is up to the university to allay fears.

John Oates, of the Catholic Education Commission, formerly chairman of the governors at St Andrew's College, told The TES Scotland: "Our anxiety is that there has been a loss of confidence from the Catholic community in the ability of the education faculty to support Catholic education."

He believes Glasgow is anxious to allay fears but adds: "There needs to be more recognition by the university of the Catholic dimension behind the merger which was, after all, a merger with the National Catholic College. Some members of the university seem to have difficulty with that."

Jim Fegan, president of the Catholic heads, said that the sole purpose of a Catholic teacher training facility should be to give priority to the provision of Catholic teachers for Catholic schools. "We are not convinced that Glasgow University's education faculty is actively working to achieve those ends," Mr Fegan said.

A spokesperson for the funding council said the evaluation would not be published since it was a confidential report to the minister, but the university had been asked to give it wide circulation internally.

The university's press office said this had not yet happened but it was anticipated that the report would form the basis of discussion with the various interested parties.

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