Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Principals are concerned about speed of college reforms but still had presence of mind to ask for more money for transitional arrangements!

Dear All

Money is getting tighter, budgets are getting cut and reform is on the cards.

But what type of reform is needed?

George Laird radical reform, that type of reform, education is a thorny issue for any government and it is important to get it right.

Teachers at present are up in arms over changes to their pay and conditions, threatening strike action over the McCormac report.

Now, it’s the turn of College Principals who are turning on the SNP Government over the speed of reforms to the further education sector.

Whether that will be successful is doubtful, while the Police and Fire Services benefit from concentration into single entities, it isn’t advisable for education.

Diversity is the key to a multi option education sector.

Having spent 20 years in higher education on the sidelines watching the world go by, I am able to see the sector for what it is.


Little fiefdoms and empire building without real benefits to the taxpayer!

A black hole that is getting bigger sucking public money up without any real safeguards which any reasonable person would expect!

The Scottish Government reforms are said to favour wholesale mergers.

This is a market we don’t want to shrink, because it has potential.

Principals say they need more time to plan for the future and typically they are calling for extra cash to fund the work for future change.

Ideally, it would be smarter if universities were slimmed down, the College sector expanded and the introduction of community colleges similar to the Australian model but re-tweaked.

John Spencer, convener of Scotland’s Colleges, said:

“Colleges remain concerned at the proposed pace of the reforms. The paper proposes to fund regional groupings of colleges that do not yet exist, and the timescale for delivery allows very little time to plan and create those partnerships.”
Well John, you better get working faster, how he has said that it is good news that transitional arrangements would need to be put in place to support colleges through the reforms.

Duh brain!

Spencer added:

“We hope to see those arrangements supported by a dedicated additional sum of money, protecting both places for students and against destabilising any institutions.”

The consultation paper follows the publication in September of a report on reforms of post-16 education by Michael Russell, the Education Secretary.

Finance Secretary John Swinney has announced savage cuts of £74 million to the college sector by 2014/15.

This means that jobs losses and course cuts will be needed because the higher education sector is so unbalanced in favour of universities.

The Scottish Funding Council needs to be split if colleges are to be better served and funded properly.

Again diversity in education is the key to success.

The consultation paper states:

“Our expectation is that where major campuses currently exist they will remain. But in some regions there will be commun-ities that are not currently well served. It will create opportunities for colleges in many regions to work more cost-efficiently, for example, through the sharing of services, mergers or collaboration.”

In academia, the tendency is to go on evidence based work rather than subjective opinion, wishful thinking provokes scorn rightly in learned circles.

If the document is correct it paints a scenario that Scotland’s 38 colleges should be grouped together into 10 regions.

Unusually the thinking is said to be geared towards areas where there was a greater need for further education because of low school staying-on rates, fewer people going to university, or a legacy of low skills.

Not a criteria that I would used, too simplistic, you don’t build a stable round a horse, it’s the other way round, you build the stable then stable the horse.

Because it is custom made!

2 years at the human rights abusing Glasgow University stuck in the university penal colony of Garscube (Vet School) taught me that.

One thing which I did mention regarding colleges previously was the move towards going ‘real’ courses and transferring the fluff to community colleges set to be social inclusive for families.

The document has several options for the new regional funding model, including full merger or a looser federation of colleges run by a joint board.

Other option which isn’t viable is the notion of a “lead college” model where colleges in an area agree that one college is funded, but has a contractual arrangement with other colleges in the region to deliver courses.

Where is the security of employment for the staff?

That option is bullshit.

The likely scenario is the collaboration between colleges where the Scottish Funding Council would continue to fund each college in an area directly.

Politically this is probably the best option as it requires little thought and can be easily done and retains a sense of autonomy.

Mike Russell, the education sec said:

“The intentions of our post-16 reform agenda are ... to ensure education and training is more sharply aligned with the needs of learners and employers. Regionalisation offers many opportunities: it can strengthen the role and influence of colleges in local communities, help promote more coherent planning and delivery and ensure sustainable funding.”

I wonder if that is based on evidence or just subjective opinion.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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