FE colleges' umbrella body is rebranded
The umbrella body of Scottish FE colleges has adopted a new name - Colleges Scotland - and appointed a new board of management.
The reforms come after a report by former BBC Scotland controller John McCormick, published in June, found that some principals and chairs viewed Scotland's Colleges as "dysfunctional" and "muddled" and called its structural arrangements "confused", "awkward" and "unworkable".
Mr McCormick, a former chair of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, said the body had been unable to "speak with one voice" and was widely seen as "lacking focus and clear strategy". He called for a rebranding of the lobbying activities of Scotland's Colleges and the Scottish Further Education Unit, which delivers continuing professional development, funded largely the Scottish Funding Council.
At the time, Scotland's Colleges chief executive John Henderson said the body was going to "hit the ground running" on implementing the recommendations.
It has been announced that the lobbying arm formally changed its name to Colleges Scotland on 1 October, while the SFEU was renamed College Development Network at the same time. The aim is to create a clearer distinction between the two sides of the organisation.
Next week, the organisation will launch new logos at the Principals' Forum - formerly called the Principals' Convention - when the overarching brand of Scotland's Colleges will cease to exist.
The new board of Colleges Scotland met for the first time on 14 November and appointed John Russell, chair of North Glasgow College, as its chair.
He said: "Colleges Scotland has changed and developed its advocacy role in working with chairs and principals, students and staff, SFC and government in the past two years and has the trust of the sector. Its priority is to develop this trust in an increasingly complex landscape of emerging bodies and groups over the next year."
The big challenge facing the organisation over the next year was to "maintain its role as one voice for the sector and address the radical changes in funding and restructuring within it", including regionalisation, mergers and significant funding cuts, said Mr Russell.
POST-16 BILL COULD MEAN 'POWER GRAB'
Opposition politicians have warned that the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill, published last week by education secretary Michael Russell, could lead to a "power grab" by giving ministers powers over the shape of college courses.
With Mr Russell's role still under scrutiny over the decision by Stow College chair Kirk Ramsay to resign over his clandestine recording and distribution of a speech by Mr Russell, MSPs have voiced concern that the bill would allow ministers to remove chairs and other college board members.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said: "This bill is the first test for Mike Russell to prove that he is now listening."
Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman, said the bill would "diminish the autonomy" of colleges and universities.
Hugh Henry, Scottish Labour education spokesman, said: "Forced mergers will not solve the funding crisis in colleges and the SNP need to face up to their choice of prioritising university places over colleges, which now have 70,000 fewer students and thousands unable to find a place."
NUS Scotland and the University and College Union Scotland opposed the bill's underpinning of a maximum fee level for students from the rest of the UK, saying it went beyond the worst excesses of England's fees system.