Review to consider ministers' power to intervene

21st October 2005 at 01:00
College accountability and governance will once again come under the spotlight, it has been confirmed.

The national review of further education, announced in June, will take another look at the issues, including ministerial powers of intervention.

The first in a series of e-bulletins on the progress of the review states that this should be considered "as a matter of urgency".

The previous review, prompted by irregularities in the management of Moray College in Elgin and published in March 2003, confined changes to the practice and membership of college boards. It concluded that the need for further change should be revisited after two years.

The running of colleges is one of four "workstreams" in the new review. The others are the difference colleges can make, staffing and facilities and the sector's strategic future.

The Scottish Executive's intention is that the review should work out how colleges might develop over the next 10-15 years in a way which is "inclusive, free-thinking and dynamic", in the words of Jim Wallace, former Lifelong Learning Minister, who launched it.

Ministers expect the review to provide a "robust evidence base and informed recommendations for change", which will then feed into spending decisions.

The review, chaired by Mark Batho, head of the Executive's Lifelong Learning Group, aims to complete its work by February 2007.

Among the issues already agreed as the focus of the various workstreams are the modernisation of teaching methods, the professionalism of staff, the interaction between businesses and colleges, and "scenario planning" on the long-term strategic future for the sector.

The review team has already visited 14 colleges in all parts of Scotland, and has arranged to have detailed discussions with six colleges this month and next.

Meanwhile, the most pressing "strategic" planning for Scottish FE, the controversial pound;200 million redevelopment involving the four city centre colleges in Glasgow, has taken another step forward in the long search for a solution.

EC Harris, an international property consultancy, has been appointed by the Glasgow Colleges' Steering Group to carry out the latest option appraisal for the future of Metropolitan, Central, Nautical and Stow colleges.

The company, whose projects have been as diverse as building wind farms in the Czech Republic and redeveloping university laboratories, says the focus will be on the curriculum and course delivery with solutions ranging from updating existing facilities to brand new buildings.

It is not clear whether the location of all four colleges in Cathedral Street in Glasgow city centre to form a "learning zone" alongside Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian universities, the most controversial of the options, remains on the table.

Stow College, which is least convinced by the merits of this plan, told The TES Scotland in January that it had commissioned 18 independent consultants' reports over the past two and a half years, and none had pointed in the direction of Cathedral Street.

It wants to leave its Cowcaddens home for Central Quay on the Clyde in a Pounds 25 million move.

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