9 out of 10 college staff say mergers a failure

Staff of merged colleges have called the move a failure. Picture: Toby Williams
Staff of merged colleges have called the move a failure. Picture: Toby Williams
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Nearly 90 per cent of staff in Scotland’s further education sector do not believe controversial college mergers improved learning and teaching, a survey has found.

A poll of almost 1,000 lecturers found many think the reorganisation of colleges begun by previous education secretary Mike Russell has been a failure.

The survey, which was carried out by the EIS Further Education Lecturers’ Association (EIS-FELA), found 89 per cent of respondents do not believe their merger has improved learning and teaching quality, while 91 per cent said the merger had not improved the management of their institution.

Ninety-four per cent of respondents said the mergers had not improved staff morale.

Earlier this week, Scottish Government ministers were accused of “lax oversight” after it emerged 14 college prinicipals shared nearly £2.4 million in payouts during the mergers.

Audit Scotland has already questioned the largest payout - the £315,000 awarded to former North Glasgow College principal Ronnie Knox.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “The EIS-FELA survey report demonstrates that the many benefits that were promised as part of the mergers programme have not been delivered. Mergers were touted as the means to delivering a leaner, more efficient further education sector with colleges that focused on delivering high-quality learning and teaching that was better suited to the needs of local communities. Unfortunately, as our survey shows, these imagined benefits have yet to become reality.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The sector has implemented the most profound set of public sector reforms in Scottish further education for more than a generation, resulting in colleges of scale and influence across Scotland.

“Colleges are using their new and substantial influence and building partnerships with employers, schools and universities to improve student outcomes and maximise their contribution to economic growth.

“We have seen huge progress. In each of the last three years, we have exceeded our target to maintain the number of full-time equivalent places and in 2013-14, colleges delivered record levels of student 
retention.”