Edinburgh College probe finds ‘serious’ concerns

The report uncovered "serious concerns" at Edinburgh College. Pic: Ian Georgeson.
The report uncovered "serious concerns" at Edinburgh College. Pic: Ian Georgeson.
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A MAJOR probe has uncovered serious failings at Edinburgh College.

National investigators found “real and serious” issues were affecting staff and students at the so-called super college.

The hard-hitting Scottish Funding Council (SFC) report stopped short of calling for external intervention in the problem-hit teaching spot, but did urge immediate action to address problems as varied as students having to drop out because they were not being paid their loans on time to “significant difficulties” with student registration and other key areas.

College bosses have since said “good progress” is being made to tackle the strife.

In its investigation, the SFC found problems were being “created or exacerbated” by new systems brought in when the institution was formed through the merger of Jewel and Esk, Stevenson and Telford colleges. The SFC probe was launched following union allegations “almost every aspect of college management” had become “dysfunctional”.

The findings have been seized on by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest teaching union, which said the college continued to be beset by “monumental” and “intractable” problems that are harming students and staff.
Mike Cowley, of the college’s EIS branch, said: “Ten weeks into the new term, there are reports of staff throughout the college still not having a single class register. And there are students not getting bursaries who appear on the register, which will be a problem for retention.

“We are losing students for financial reasons – after two or three weeks without a bursary, they simply cannot afford to be here.”

Student association leaders, who warned SFC staff of soaring complaint levels at the college, said they were now working with management to improve the situation.

Association president Kelly Parry said: “The SFC report has identified some key concerns that we have raised with the college, particularly in how quickly it resolves problems raised by students.

“We are pleased to say that the college has recognised there is room for improvement in this area and is currently working with us to develop ways resolve students’ concerns quickly and productively.”

College bosses said SFC
investigators had agreed management problems were being effectively addressed.

A spokeswoman said: “Since the SFC’s visit at the start of the month we have continued to make good progress with many of these issues, including processing all but the most recent student funding applications. Our strong relationship with the students’ association is important to us and crucial to the college’s success.

“We aim to work positively with both staff unions for the benefit of staff and students.”

The dispute has also caused concern at ministerial level.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Funding Council has considered the very serious issues raised by the EIS and Fela [Further Education Lecturers Association] and we welcome the openness with which they have reported their conclusions.

“We urge both the college management and union representatives to work constructively together.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com