SNP minister reveals funding review for universities as he backs shake-up of Glasgow and Lanarkshire colleges

Graeme Dey confirmed plans as he was quizzed in the Scottish Parliament

An SNP minister has signalled potential changes to the way Scottish universities are funded - and announced he backed the end of regional governance arrangements for colleges in Glasgow and Lanarkshire.

Graeme Dey, the minister for further and higher education, told MSPs on Thursday the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) was due to carry out a review of its approach to teaching funding in higher education. It comes in the wake of a £28.5 million cut to the Government’s budget for the sector, amid claims more modern universities have been disproportionately hit.

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Meanwhile, Mr Dey also confirmed he was poised to consult on ending the regional colleges arrangements in Lanarkshire and Glasgow.

In 2013, a restructuring of the sector created 13 college regions in Scotland, most of which only had one, large college in them. However, three areas opted for a regional strategic body governing a number of colleges.

These included two in Lanarkshire - New College Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire College - as well as three in Glasgow - the City of Glasgow College, Glasgow Clyde College and Glasgow Kelvin College.

In 2020, an SFC report into Glasgow’s regional arrangement said agreeing funding allocations across the three colleges “remains challenging”, and that negotiating agreement on key issues between the boards and senior managers had been “time-consuming and difficult at times”.

It recommended looking at “organisational options”, including those which “may lead to reformation of the regional structure”.

Asked on Thursday for an update by Conservative MSP Graham Simpson, the minister said: “I’ve taken time to consider the funding council’s advice, and the practicalities and implications of implementing any changes within the Glasgow and Lanarkshire college regions, in the context of wider reform.

“I think it was right to listen to different perspectives and concerns, but that process is now complete and I can confirm to Parliament today that I intend to undertake a formal consultation on the future of the Glasgow Colleges Regional Board, and the Lanarkshire board, as I’m required to do, with my preferred option being to dissolve both.”

Mr Dey said the consultation would be launched in “coming weeks”, and would aim to be completed in time for the next academic year, in “six to nine months”.

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He said: “I certainly hope and expect that the abolition of the regional boards will act as a spur to the individual colleges. This is an action that certainly the overwhelming majority of them have been pressing for.”

Janie McCusker, chair of the Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board (GCRB), said: "Since GCRB's inception, we have worked collaboratively with Glasgow's three colleges, the Scottish Funding Council and the wider education sector, focused on successful outcomes for learners and staff in the region. 

“This has included the achievement of fundable body status, and the establishment of a coherent governance and executive leadership system founded on a collegiate regional approach, and collaboration and contribution from experienced, expert staff from across GCRB and its assigned colleges.

“It is vitally important that the Glasgow college region safeguards learning and opportunities for the future and we will continue to work closely with the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council over the coming months to deliver the best outcomes for staff, students and communities in the Glasgow college region."

Mr Dey had earlier been asked by Audrey Nicoll MSP about price groups used for determining funding provided to universities for teaching Scottish students. The minister revealed the SFC was planning a review of price groups during the next academic year.

“This will be part of a wider review of its approach to teaching funding and it will involve engagement across the sector,” Mr Dey said.

He added: “Any changes that we make should wherever possible declutter the landscape rather than further complicate it.”

An SFC spokesperson said: “Throughout our engagement with the sector on the 2024-25 funding round we were clear that we would want to explore with them how we take forward the funding distribution methodology in future years. We will continue to engage with the sectors as we develop our thinking further.”

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On colleges, the spokesperson added: “We welcome the minister’s announcement which will secure better assurance and accountability for public investment while continuing to meet the needs of learners, employers and communities.”



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