Bosses to face 'challenge questions'

25th August 2000 at 01:00
IMPROVED financial planning and better handling of staff will be two of the key recommendations from the review of FE college management, which was set up in March last year.

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council, which carried out the investigation, plans to publish its report in full within the month, although it was sent to Henry McLeish, the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, in May. It will contain "challenge questions" for every college.

Mr McLeish has already revealed that, while there are excellent examples of good practice, he was "taken aback by the extent of the work to be done to ensure that best practice is embedded throughout the sector and becomes the norm" (TESS, June 23).

The minister added that some colleges will find the challenge "formidable," but that they will have to draw up management recovery plans, which will be every bit as important as financial recovery plans.

In line with the minister's instructions, however, the funding council has agreed that all colleges, not just those deemed to be failing, will be required to draw up a "management action plan". These plans, which will have to be submitted to the council by the end of this calendar year, will be used as the basis for monitoring the improvements that are required.

The funding council has been ordered by the Parliament's audit committee to indicate, also by the end of the year, how it intends to turn around the financial health of the sector.

A spokesman for the funding council said this week: "Every single college has room for improvement. There are no perfect institutions out there."

The council says in its latest bulletin that "an important message is that there is much goo governance and management practice already in place in Scottish FE colleges. Moreover, this good practice was readily apparent and did not need to be unearthed."

The funding council's conclusion is hence that, if this is possible in some colleges, it ought to be possible in all.

A review of the way in which college programmes of study are given weightings to reflect their differing costs is to be carried out for the funding council by a consortium led by the Scottish Further Education Unit and the London based

Further Education Development Agency. The work will be undertaken between now and November.


The key findings from the management review report are:

* The need for greater involvement by board members in formulating strategy and setting their college's agenda.

* More and regular structured training for board members.

* Better links between strategies and their implementation.

* Improved "scenario planning, risk assessment and sensitivity analysis".

* Quality assurance must become college-wide.

* The role of the new technologies for quality assurance must be more adequately understood.

* Marketing should be seen as a strategic function with activities more comprehensive and co-ordinated.

* A culture of human resource management has to become widespread "in which all managers understand the importance of their responsibilities in this area and act accordingly".

* Financial management has to develop "significantly".

* Comprehensive "estates strategies" are required so the renewal of buildings and facilities can be planned in line with colleges' broader strategies.

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