The "total quality management" (TQM) project, which has been running for 10 years, has involved 29 colleges and is described by Iain Ovens, principal of Dundee College, as "the largest continuous organisation development programme for managers in education in Scotland (and) a first class example of the FE sector breaking new ground".
The final report was launched at the Scottish Further Education Unit in Stirling yesterday (Thursday). The next stage is now likely to be a fresh initiative which, Mr Ovens said, will help colleges "build the managerial capacity and capability of the sector." Among new challenges outlined in the report are the application of information technology to learning and e-commerce.
The capacity of colleges to work in partnership will also be tested,particularly as they take their place in the new economic forums likely to be set up following the Scottish Executive's acceptance of proposals from Holyrood's enterprise and lifelong learning committee.
Significant numbers of senior staff took part in the TQM project and at least 12 are now principals. But Mr Ovens, who chaired the project steering committee, did not vote the project an unqualified success. "At the outset the crucial importance of the principal's commitment to the project was not fully appreciated and, where it was not forthcoming, the benefits were limited."
There was also the irony of one college which pulled out of the project after it hit financial problems. The report notes: "The principal clearly could not see that the implementation of whatever measures she had to take would impact on the experience of the learner and therefore would be a real test of the concepts of TQM."