College merger reforms have been unequal, MSPs hear
Glasgow better serviced by college provision than Edinburgh, suggest principals
Investment and restructuring of colleges following their merger into public bodies has been spread unequally across Scotland, MSPs have heard.
Budgetary pressures and cultural change have been more keenly felt in some colleges compared to others, according to oral and written evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee.
City of Glasgow College received £2.5m from the Scottish Funding Council as part of its merger process. “We’re six years down the road and real benefits are beginning to show,” said Principal Paul Little.
“As a sector we now have colleges of scale and influence. We have colleges with an enhanced reputation,” he said.
However Edinburgh College principal Annette Bruton said the college had asked for a similar investment but received £300,000.
“Without being able to hold reserves it's difficult to see how the colleges can make that investment when they needed to for transformational change,” she said.
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said he was “baffled” by the discrepancy.
Bruton warned there was “a long way to go” to meet aims of the mergers like better pathways for students.
Barry McCulloch, senior policy advisor for Scotland to the Federation of Small Businesses said there were early positive signs from the merger process.
“The benefits we would expect would be twofold: increased responsiveness to the labour market and enhanced employer engagement, and if we’re being honest there’s still some way to go,” he said.
Both principals also called for better support for students to cut down on drop-out rates. Education Secretary Angela Constance said there had been a 29 per cent real term increase in student support under the SNP, with “the highest bursary anywhere in the UK”, but would look for ways to improve the system.
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