RAISING lecturers' morale has been catapulted to the top of the further education agenda by Robert Beattie, chairman of the Scottish Further Education Funding Council.
Mr Beattie, a senior manager with IBM, told a lifelong learning conference in Glasgow that it was time for college managers, lecturers and students to "have a voice again". He wanted to know if there were difficulties and how people viewed the service, citing the influential report in the 1980s, Tell Them From Me, quoting pupils' views about schools.
"Tell me what I need to do to make life better for colleges and students," Mr Beattie said in his first major public outing.
He promised to meet college managers to discuss any difficulties. But he has already said "you don't need unions if you have good management". The conference was co-sponsored by the Educational Institute of Scotland.
Mr Beattie promised to place college funding on a more stable footing and review methods for allocating money, a long-standing grievance. Colleges are still funded on positions they held 18 months previously.
Tom Kelly, chief officer of the Association of Scottish Colleges, later welcomed the commitment. "There is an 18-month gap for funding and addressing that is a serious priority. If you are going to tackle expansion in FE, you need a firm base," Mr Kelly said.
Mr Beattie pledged to revitalise a sector that for too long had been the Cinderella of the education service. An extra pound;214 million was being injected over the next few years and the money had to be spent effectively. "We will deliver world-class further education for the people of Scotland. But I do not think in FE we know what world-class is," he said.
Ed Weeple, head of lifelong learning at the Scottish Office, said spending would be 50 per cent higher over the next three years. "By any standards that is a remarkable investment and a remarkable vote of confidence in the FE sector," Mr Weeple said.
Of the pound;214 million, pound;100 million would go to expand student numbers and widen access, pound;30 million would develop information and communications technology, and pound;30 million would be allocated for capital investment. More than pound;50 million would be used to "stabilise" college funding.
Moira McCrossan, EIS president, later welcomed the package and Mr Beattie's vision for FE. "One crucial factor is that the Government is putting money into a neglected area. FE members have felt terribly demoralised over the years," she said.
FE Focus, page 23