RELATIONS between lecturers and senior management at Edinburgh College have plumbed new depths after Scotland’s largest teaching union passed a motion of no confidence in its leadership.
In a wide-ranging motion, members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) local branch set out a list of 10 key grievances covering areas such as lecturers’ hours, cuts to academic posts and risks to staff-student contact time.
The motion comes after EIS chiefs published the results of a members’ survey which pointed to a culture of bullying and soaring stress levels at the College.
Union chiefs also said the principal, Mandy Exley, had responded to the survey by implying “all staff should undertake anti-bullying training and that all staff were responsible for managing their own stress”.
In their official confirmation of a ballot on the motion, EIS branch leaders revealed it had been passed “overwhelmingly” and “with no votes against”.
They said: “Branch officials requested that a delegation of democratically elected EIS-FELA officials from the college be given the opportunity to present the reasons for the motion to the Board of Management (BOM) directly at the BOM meeting on June 11.
“Sadly the request was refused and we continue to await a response to our various concerns.”
The motion lists a number of complaints expressed by EIS members, including fears that redistribution of resources will “lead to a cut in face-to-face delivery for a significant number of students”, concern over a managerial statement that lecturers on fixed-term contracts are “not part of” the College, and concern at the “lack of an adequate response” to rising stress levels among staff.
Evidence of new difficulty in the relationship between senior managers and lecturers comes as the institution continues to restructure following the merger of Telford, Stevenson and Jewel & Esk Valley colleges last autumn.
Student leaders have reacted with concern to the motion.
Kelly Parry, student president-elect, said: “The concerns raised by the Edinburgh EIS-FELA branch which led to the no-confidence vote are extremely worrying.
“Accusations of bullying and increased levels of stress by lecturers can only have a negative impact on the learning experience of students, and need to be addressed quickly and openly by Edinburgh College’s senior management.”
College chiefs insisted staff welfare was taken seriously.
A spokeswoman said: “Edinburgh College is committed to working in partnership with the relevant unions to continue to develop good industrial relations.
“We accept that this process may take longer with some groups of staff, due to complexities of the merger, but are concerned that EIS are choosing not to operate in partnership with college management to reach an agreed way forward for the benefit of staff and students.”