Constance faces court challenge over college axe

SCOTLAND’S education secretary could be facing a court challenge after dramatically axing the chairman and governing board of a college.

Angela Constance insisted she had been forced to act over “repeated” failings on the part of Glasgow College chiefs over student relations and overspends.

The intervention followed the suspension of the college’s principal, Susan Walsh, in February. Ms Constance has appointed a new board, chaired by Alex Linkston, former chief executive of West Lothian Council.

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But angry members of the axed board said they were “stunned” by the move, claiming they acted with “integrity in the best interests of the college.”

“The education secretary’s decision today is unprecedented and unjustified,” a statement said. “It is open to challenge in the courts.

“We call on the Scottish Parliament’s education committee to conduct a full inquiry into the matter and we are ready to give our evidence.”

It added: “It is the Scottish Funding Council and ministers, not the college board, who should be called to account for their actions.”

Ms Constance told MSPs yesterday that concerns were first raised with her by the Scottish Funding Council.

“Such was their nature, we took these concerns seriously and we addressed them appropriately,” she said in a statement in Parliament.

The college was investigated by the Scottish Funding Council. Ms Constance concluded the board had failed over its deterioriating relationship with the student population, as well as breaching spending limits and failing to consider concerns raised by the principal about governance matters prior to her suspension.

It also failed to discharge functions appropriately, including operating without a board secretary.

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“I am clear that the board repeatedly breached its grant conditions and mismanaged its affairs through collective board failure,” the minister said.

“Despite everything, the board showed no sign of recognising the seriousness of our concerns. It refused to take responsibility for the situation that had arisen through its own failings.”

But the extent of the criticism aimed at the board was questioned the EIS-FELA (further education lecturer’s association).