GOVERNANCE AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN THE FURTHER EDUCATION SECTOR
Consultation Paper on proposed changes to FE college Boards of Management
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1. The purpose of this consultation is to seek views on the implementation of two of the 14 proposals contained in the Report of Ministerial Review of Governance and Accountability in the FE Sector 1, which was published on 28 March 2003. Subject to their consideration of consultation responses, Ministers will require to promote an Order in the Parliament to give effect to the changes.
2. The Review of Governance and Accountability in the Further Education Sector was prompted by events some years ago at one of Scotland's colleges which involved allegations of financial mismanagement and other irregularities. Scottish Ministers agreed to a recommendation by the Parliament's Audit Committee that they should review governance and accountability throughout the further education sector 2. Particular attention was drawn to the possibility of wider risks for the sector which the problems experienced may have highlighted. Ministers based the Review primarily on a consultation exercise 3. After due consideration of the views expressed, Ministers announced their intention to introduce a comprehensive package of 14 separate measures aimed at improving current governance and accountability standards.
Outcome of the Review
3. Most of the measures which comprise the outcome of the Review are being implemented without the need for legislation (mainly through formal guidance to the sector). However, it will be necessary to amend the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 4 in order to progress the measures which are the subject of this consultation, namely the maximum length of board membership, and the current statutory restriction on the appointment of a local authority employee or elected representative to the Chair of a college board.
ISSUE FOR CONSIDERATION (1)
Circumstances in which the proposed new 8-year limit on Board membership might be relaxed
4. Schedule 2, paragraph 6 (1) (b) to the 1992 Act currently states that "a person shall not be eligible for appointment as a member of the board…..where the total number of years of any previous terms of office (whether or not consecutive) served as a member of that board exceeds eight". In practice, therefore, members of the boards of Scotland's incorporated colleges currently can serve a maximum of three terms (ie up to 12 years).
5. Ministers announced in March their intention that, save in exceptional circumstances, members of college Boards would in future be able to serve a maximum of two terms (ie up to eight years). They considered that such a change would be consistent with the need to refresh and modernise the thinking of boards and would boost the ability of boards to apply best practice found in other sectors.
6. We seek views, therefore, on the circumstances or criteria which would justify waiving the new standard limit of eight years, bearing in mind that Ministers have said that these should be exceptional. We also would like to hear views on who should determine any case which is made for an extension. Should this be left to the Board in question? Should Ministers take on this role? Or should an application be determined in some other way?
7. Boards of Management should in future have access to a wider field of potential Board members as a result of new arrangements which have been implemented to make Boards aware of unsuccessful applicants to other Boards of Management. Boards will also continue to be able to access specialist skills through arrangements which allow co-option to committees of the Board. Ministers have accepted however, in principle, that exceptional or unforeseen circumstances may from time to time necessitate an extension to the new eight year limit to ensure continuity of expertise and leadership.
Views on the following questions would be welcome -
- Against what criteria should applications for an extension to the 8 year rule be considered?
- What should be the process for determining an application to extend?
- Should a time limit be imposed on the duration of an extension?
ISSUE FOR CONSIDERATION (2)
Relaxation or removal of current restriction on local authority employees and councillors becoming Chair of a college board of management
8. Schedule 2, paragraph 12(1) (d) to the 1992 Act states that "the board shall appoint one of their members, not being a person who is a member (whether elected or appointed) or an employee of a local authority……to be chairman". As matters currently stand, local authority employees and councillors are caught by this restriction even if they are employed by, or elected to serve, a different Council area to that in which the college is located.
9. Following the Review of Governance, Ministers indicated their intention to consider the relaxation of this restriction, or even its complete removal. We seek views therefore on the extent to which the restriction should remain, and on the consequences and implications of any relaxation or removal. Ministers consider that there is probably no longer the case there might once have been for such a restriction, particularly given the procedures which must now be observed by board members relating to codes of conduct and the declaration and registration of interests.
Views on the following questions would be welcome -
- Do you agree with the complete removal of the current restriction which prevents councillors and council employees being appointed to the Chair of an FE college board?
- If you do not agree that the restriction should be removed completely, to what extent do you think it should be relaxed?
10. The questions listed above are those which Ministers consider will best inform their consideration, and are intended to assist consultees in shaping their response. These are not however intended to be prescriptive and you should feel free, therefore, to comment on any aspect or issue which you consider will be helpful.
Further legislative requirements
11. The other proposals requiring legislation will be (or have been) the subject of separate consultation. These cover (a) the introduction of arrangements to allow complainants to have their complaints considered by an independent arbiter - now being taken forward in line with the Partnership Agreement commitment to give students the right to refer matters to the Public Services Ombudsman, and (b) giving SFEFC the right to attend meetings of college boards. Your views are therefore sought on the issues for consideration set out in this consultation paper.
12. Consultees' views on this consultation paper are invited by 22 October 2004. Responses should be sent to:
Scottish Executive Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department
Further and Adult Education Division
450 Argyle Street
Tel: 0141 242 0102
Fax: 0141 242 0251
13. In accordance with Scottish Executive practice, in order to help inform debate on these matters and in accordance with the Code of Practice on open government, all consultation responses will be publicly available in the Scottish Executive Library. If respondents wish all or part of their reply to be kept confidential, they should indicate this in their response. [Any confidentiality disclaimer generated by your computer system in an e-mail will not be treated as such a request.] Confidential responses will be included in any statistical summary of numbers or comments received or views expressed.
14. Further copies of this consultation paper can be obtained from the above address or from the Scottish Executive website at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Consultations/
The Scottish Executive
ANNEX: LIST OF CONSULTEES
All further education colleges in Scotland
All education authorities in Scotland
All chambers of commerce in Scotland
All local enterprise companies in Scotland
All student associations at further education colleges
Association of Scottish Colleges
Association of Scottish Chambers of Commerce
Centre for Careers Guidance, Personal and Social Development
City and Guilds
Commission for Racial Equality
Community Learning and Development
Colleges Open Learning Exchange Group
Disability Rights Commission
Equal Opportunities Commission
Federation of Small Businesses
Further Education National Training Organisation
Glasgow Colleges Group
Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education
Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Institute of Directors
Institute of Chartered Accountants for Scotland
Learning and Teaching Scotland
Linking Education and Disability Scotland
National Centre: Education for Work and Enterprise
Scottish Civic Forum
Scottish Council for Development and Industry
Scottish Council for National Training Organisations
Scottish Council for Research Education
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations
Scottish Further Education Funding Council
Scottish Further Education Unit
Scottish Higher Education Funding Council
Scottish Inter Faith Council
Scottish Parliament Enterprise and Culture Committee
Scottish Qualifications Authority
Scottish Refugee Council
Scottish Trades Union Congress
Scottish Youth Parliament
Sector Skills Alliance Scotland
SKILL: National Bureau for Disabled Students
Standards Commission for Scotland
Volunteer Development Scotland
Young Enterprise Scotland