£40m spent on staff severance in college sector

MORE than £40 million has been spent on staff severance pay as part of a series of mergers designed to cut costs in Scotland’s college sector.
Mike Russell: approved mergers. Picture: Ian RutherfordMike Russell: approved mergers. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Mike Russell: approved mergers. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Figures obtained by Scotland on Sunday from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) show huge amounts have been spent clearing the way for the new “super-colleges”.

The process, which began in 2010 with the creation of 
the City of Glasgow College, has already led to four mergers this year, with another four planned for November.

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The SFC, which hands out money on behalf of the Scottish Government, said £42m had been spent on voluntary severance schemes since 
the merger of three Edinburgh colleges last year.

The mergers have been sanctioned by Education Secretary Mike Russell, who last week said: “The new colleges will play a central part in the Scottish Government’s efforts to take education in this country from good to great.”

Last year, Edinburgh College was formed through the merger of Jewel & Esk, Telford and Stevenson. Figures obtained by Unison last month showed £6.5m had been spent since 2011 on payouts to 446 staff, ranging from technicians to heads of department.

John Henderson, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: “Voluntary severance schemes are an important part of the merger programme colleges are pursuing. The government, the SFC and colleges themselves have provided the funding for these schemes.

“Colleges are very conscious that such schemes need to 
be proportionate and deliver efficiency savings in the medium and long terms. The sector remains focused on ensuring that the student experience is maintained and enhanced.”

Earlier this week, details of a survey emerged which found that less than half of staff at three merging colleges in Glasgow feel optimistic about their future in a new establishment.

The survey, which was carried out among staff at John Wheatley, North Glasgow and Stow colleges earlier this year, found only 38 per cent of teaching staff at North Glasgow felt their views and opinions were respected within the college, compared with 55 per cent at Stow and 63 per cent at John Wheatley.

A spokesman for the SFC, said: “The programme of college mergers to create bigger regional colleges will be more efficient, by reducing spending on management and back office services. It will also create colleges with clear identities, making choices easier for 
potential students and for employers and reducing unnecessary duplication and wasteful competition. Supporting 
voluntary severance schemes with strategic funding has been an important part of enabling colleges to merge so quickly and effectively.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman added: “In the face of the cuts imposed on the Scottish Government’s block grant by Westminster, there’s no escaping the need for efficiencies in all parts of the public sector. Colleges’ voluntary severance programmes are helping the sector deliver more for less.

“The one-off costs of colleges’ programmes will be quickly recovered.”