`We recognise that we cannot be complacent'

Principal on how troubled Fife College has begun a new chapter

"I fully realise that the trust of staff is not given by my standing up and saying that something will happen. Actions need to follow words," said Hugh Logan, the man tasked with leading Fife College away from the scandals of its recent past.

Nevertheless, the politically tricky undertaking would be "a huge challenge", he admitted in his first interview with TESS.

Mr Logan is nearly a year into his job at the helm of the new college, which was created through the merger of Adam Smith and Carnegie colleges along with part of Elmwood College.

Although controversy has dogged the formation of many of the new regional colleges, the amalgamation in Fife was subject to more than most. Adam Smith College hit the headlines in 2012 when allegations were made of bullying by senior management and misuse of funds. Shortly after the Scottish Funding Council launched an investigation into the claims, principal Craig Thomson retired. His successor, Ian Harrington, was suspended only months later.

In 2013, Police Scotland began making enquiries after a series of investigations into the college's finances by auditors KPMG and the Scottish government led to the institution reportedly repaying pound;5.5 million of European Union funding. Earlier this year, it was announced that arrests had been made in connection with the ongoing investigation.

Mr Logan, who took up his post only months before the official merger date last August, said he was well aware of the scale of the task. But, he added, "I was very keen to put something in place that would help Fife College establish itself with a solid foundation to move on.

"It will take a number of years until the college is fully established. I think it will be a very difficult challenge for some staff to move on from what has been a very raw experience and it is very much my job to work with them to take these forward steps."

The college was now implementing organisational change and a complete staff restructure, he said, and the workforce had been consulted on these plans at every stage. Serious change had already taken place in some departments including finance, he added.

"As part of the reorganisation of the college, careful consideration has been made to all new post requirements. In finance, for example, we have a professionally qualified and experienced team in place whose key remit is effective accountability and audit."

Transforming the culture of the college was a priority, Mr Logan insisted. "The appointment of a new senior management team has resulted in a very positive shift and changed the culture of the college for the better," he said.

"We recognise that we cannot be complacent and take this change for granted. We will continue to work with our staff and trade unions to ensure our philosophy remains one of honesty, transparency and integrity."

Mr Logan stressed that the ultimate aim of all this effort was to focus on providing "the best learning experience possible" for students. He said that formal agreements had now been reached on organisational frameworks and steps had been taken towards harmonising terms and conditions.

Creating unity in an institution of about 16,000 students and 600 staff at the same time as ensuring that a "business-as-usual" approach was maintained for the benefit of students was an enormous task, Mr Logan said. He added that it was particularly difficult to do while managing "the everyday challenges of running a large, regional college against a backdrop of massive cuts in funding".

But the new institution had been "warmly received" by external partners in Fife, including schools, businesses and industry, he said. One example of successful partnership is the cutting-edge new "super high school" in Levenmouth, which will bring together secondary education and a new Fife College campus, and is due to open in August 2016.

"Many challenges lie ahead for Fife College," Mr Logan said. "But these are also exciting times as we embrace change in order to maximise the opportunities for our staff, students and the residents of Fife."

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