Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Scottish Government takes the wrong road on higher education funding as cuts 'risks quality of colleges' and less places for the disadvantaged

Dear All

The Scottish Government is wrong in its approach to higher education, so with that statement in mind, off we go with this post.

Higher education and education generally is vital to the success of any developing country.

Education is a human right; we all see the value of it, it is a self evident truth.

However, there is a problem, the current three tier set up is unworkable, out dated and in need of major overhaul.

Education from school to college to university is based on a crumbling ineffective system that creates a financial black hole.

In short, it is rubbish.

But, in chaos lies opportunity, politicians talk constantly about ‘change’ but the question is change to what.

I would like to return to a theme I have been blogging about for sometime, reform of education and in particular higher education.

Out with the old three tier system and in with the development of a brand new four tier system.

School, community college, college and university!

Revenue streams must be developed by councils to increase liquidity.

That is why I propose community colleges, run at schools teaching various subjects and activities to develop revenue and community cohesion.

In order to replace the old system, the Scottish Funding Council must be split as there is heavy bias towards universities; we need Scottish Funding Council (universities) and Scottish Funding Council (colleges).

Universities need to be slimmed down, closure isn’t an option for political reasons and mergers floated by the SNP Government were not a helpful suggestion by any means.

The college sector on the other hand needs more funding not less, it is cheaper to educate at college than at university. That is why a slimmed down university sector must transfer courses and departments into the college sector.

This is an opportunity to increase students and protect budgets.

Then as I mention previously community colleges, community colleges would be an new radical idea for Scotland, these colleges would be operated in an open university style type basis using schools.

So, the traditional education approach is to segregate children from adults, under my scheme, entire families could be taught in the same class in subjects such as languages, more than just a sales pitch.

Another aspect of community colleges is that it as I previously mentioned is that it creates revenue for councils by maximising council usage of available resources.

At present, the old current system is being ‘patched’ up by the Scottish Education Sec Mike Russell. There is nothing radical happening other than cuts to College budgets!

Colleges have had funding cut which means that more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are losing out.

What is the point of ‘free’ education when you can’t get a place?

And as we have seen young people from disadvantaged backgrounds being frozen out has increased, this is a proven fact. Everyone talks about how they are ‘working hard’ to solve that problem but that is.


So; as to the Scottish Government’s plan of a series of regional mergers.

This is wrong, it restricts diversity in the sector and ‘the market’ shouldn’t have that heavy burden placed upon them.

The current idea seems to merge everything, where as the Scottish National Police Force idea which I proposed at the SNP National Assembly on the 4Th September 2010 was the right idea for the right time. The regional mergers aren’t the right idea at anytime; it is an idea that should be halted.

There is nothing clever or sophisticated about this idea, it is clumsy and ill judged.

College staff are already bracing themselves for a wave of job cuts as the Scottish Government presses ahead with this disastrous plan.

Colleges don’t want this but are being forced into it.

Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, believes significant sums can be saved by rationalising provision, offsetting the current cuts.

Bottom line, since he is talking money, courses will be cut and student numbers will be cut.

And we should be trying to grow the market.

Another aspect overlooked is that in this attempt to do college on the cheap, it will lead to problems with larger class sizes, reduced teaching time and greater staff workload.

Quality and standards will drop like a stone.

David Belsey, national officer for further education for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union, said:

"Last year, the SFC reduced the number of hours colleges need to teach full-time students and the sector saw a thousand workers leave. These funding cuts will cause more redundancies and further undermine colleges' ability to deliver the education needed for increasing numbers of unemployed people. The EIS is concerned at the continued slashing of college funding, and fears that a whole generation of students and staff may suffer as a result."

John Henderson, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges, which represents principals, said:

"Colleges worked hard in the last year to become as efficient as they can, to maintain teaching activity at the same level despite funding cuts, and prevent there being an impact on their students. As the amount of teaching funding available to colleges is squeezed over the next three years, there will be risks to the sector's ability to maintain both excellence and breadth."

Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland:

"We're very concerned that cuts to colleges could mean cuts to the quality of college education. We know already that cuts have led to fewer courses, less contact time and larger classes”.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said:

"We believe the funding allocated to our colleges will protect quality of teaching and maintain provision."

I wonder if this is Liz Lloyd who was appointed a ‘special’ advisor for the Scottish Government.

Because, it is painful obvious whoever this is, is talking a load of wank!

The mouth maybe moving but no original thought comes out.

We need radical overhaul of education right across the board, the status quo to protect vested interests must be addressed.

So, what 'learning outcome' has the Scottish Government achieved in this shambolic episode?

They f*cked that up!

Education isn't seen as a flagship SNP policy by any means, their 'one trick pony' is free higher education and the poor is being frozen out of that.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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