The funding council is to set out its approach to "collaboration and rationalisation" in a fortnight. Avoiding the "M-word" of merger, its report is likely to set out broad principles rather than take a view of whether 47 colleges is too many.
Robert Beattie said collaboration or merger would not work unless colleges felt "ownership" of any changes, and the ownership had to emerge from them. Mr Beattie described the council's current review of FE provision in Glasgow as the city "working out its own destiny and the council oiling the wheels".
A hint of the approach is given in the corporate plan which states the council's preference for "area groupings" of colleges which would develop regional provision on thebasis of local requirements.
This work will be informed by a recently published study of supply and demand in the sector. Colleges will also be expected to liaise with the Scottish University for Industry whose Learndirect Scotland arm will establish what the local learning demands are.
The council's role will be to give guidance on various models of partnership working, collaboration, rationalisation and merger. "Different models will be appropriate for different colleges," the corporate plan states. "The council will expect individual colleges and groups of colleges to undertake regular reviews of their strategic options, and to have a robust and sustainable rationale for the decisions they take."