Reinventing the spiel

6th November 2015 at 00:00

Sitting Pretty

It’s been a busy start at the 157 Group for Ian Pretty: even before he officially began, the new chief executive instigated a wholesale strategic review.

Workshops where members thrashed out their vision for the future have now been completed. FErret’s spies tell him that the strapline “Furthering Education and Skills” is to be replaced by the more government-friendly “Ready for Work”. With it comes a new agenda focused on productivity and devolution. And technical skills at levels 3-5 are also likely to assume far greater importance.

More intriguing is the suggestion, hinted at in a TES interview with Mr Pretty (Further, 25 September), that the organisation is exploring new approaches to collaborative working – both to share costs and to enable colleges to increase revenue. Will we see the 157 Group bidding for major contracts, which would then be delivered by its members countrywide? There’s no definite news from 157 Towers just yet, but it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Masters of technology

The government’s bold plan for FE involves a key role being played by grand-sounding institutes of technology, which will “provide specialist higher-level professional and technical education”.

So what exactly will an institute look like? FErret understands that the answer is…well…no one really knows. Questions to officials at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Bis) have been met with blank expressions and awkward silences. Official guidance, expected weeks ago, has not been forthcoming.

Thankfully for Bis, a few enterprising colleges have taken the bull by the horns and are starting to put together their own ideas – help that Bis has reportedly been only too happy to accept. Separately, those brave souls at City and Islington and Westminster Kingsway colleges have already thrown their hats into the ring, claiming they would be in a “unique position to become an institute of technology at the heart of London”. They may well find themselves at the vanguard of a pioneering new movement. But it would help if someone in Whitehall could point them in the right direction.

No expense spared

Only the best was ever going to be good enough when City of Glasgow College opened its new £66 million Riverside Campus. After all, earlier this year principal Paul Little enrolled on a £50,000 advanced management programme at Harvard Business School to support the college’s bid to become a “world leader in learning”.

And no expense was spared at the unveiling, with more than £31,000 invested in the event, where first minister Nicola Sturgeon formally opened what Mr Little modestly described as an “outstanding, world-class campus with the ‘wow’ factor”.

A total of £2,510 was spent on invitations, finishings and envelopes alone, and £11,772 more on food and drink. The remaining £17,341 went on what the college described as “other costs linked to the event”. FErret has been assured there is no truth to the rumours that guests were served caviar wrapped in gold leaf using spoons carved out of unicorn horns.

But perhaps the fanfare was justified. As Mr Little put it, the new campus is a “bold statement of intent by City of Glasgow College to lead the global maritime college community”. And, he added: “Within that community, our Riverside Campus is now the most advanced of all colleges throughout the world.” Its prawn sandwiches aren’t bad either.

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