Glasgow colleges lose out in battle over board costs

27th March 2015 at 00:00
`Controversial' new body will not receive national funding

Glasgow's colleges will have to continue footing the bill for a controversial regional management board set up by former first minister Henry McLeish, the Scottish Funding Council has insisted.

After TESS revealed earlier this month that the pound;376,000 annual running costs of the Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board (GCRB) were being covered by the city's three colleges, the board put forward plans for part of the bill to be paid by the SFC. It argued that this would prevent cash being "taken from the teaching budgets of colleges".

But the SFC has rejected the proposals. It argues that because college regionalisation offers scope for greater efficiencies, the GCRB - set up by Mr McLeish last year - should continue to be financed through Glasgow colleges' existing resources.

"Diverting SFC core budget to pay for the GCRB would reduce the funding available to help the sector become innovative, collaborative and forward-thinking," a spokesman said.

The regional board's budget is top-sliced from the core grant of Glasgow's three colleges. When the board's costs for 2015 were revealed earlier this month, students and lecturers raised concerns about the provision of further education in the city.

Days later, the GCRB passed a paper arguing that the SFC should cover at least some of the running costs, as the board would eventually take on additional governance functions from the SFC when it became a "fundable body". This would mean the GCRB assuming responsibility for distributing resources to the three colleges in Glasgow.

However, the board has not yet been granted these powers, with the SFC saying it has made "insufficient" progress towards being ready to discharge such a role. The funding council has also called for a review of the board's governance.

In its paper, the GCRB stresses its desire to "minimise the costs and scale of the GCRB administrative structure" but says an "appropriate level of staffing resource" will be needed to "enable it to deliver on its statutory responsibilities".

Continuing to top-slice the funding allocations of City of Glasgow, Glasgow Kelvin and Glasgow Clyde colleges would require them to make "additional efficiency savings to deliver their student activity target", according to the GCRB paper. "This will place Glasgow colleges in a worse position than other colleges in Scotland as a result of legislative arrangements."

The GCRB concludes: "The financial position facing the sector in general, and Glasgow in particular, means that this is not an affordable or sustainable position. It also reduces funding for education and support targeted at some of the most deprived communities in the country and is at odds with the refreshed economic strategy of the Scottish government."

The board has agreed to move from privately rented offices at Glasgow Caledonian University to offices at City of Glasgow College to save money.

A spokesman for the Scottish government told TESS it was "clear on the need for the required standards of governance to be met", adding: "In Glasgow, the SFC plainly has concerns over the progress made to date and is acting to address the issues, with ministers being kept informed."

A spokesman for the EIS teaching union said: "Clearly from the point of view of lecturers, the priority must be to ensure that maximum resources are put into lecturing staff and course provision."

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