There are currently 41 colleges in Scotland and they make a huge contribution towards Scotland’s performance in education, skills and the economy. But the college sector has been largely unreformed in the last 20 years, and we want to improve:
- how our colleges are funded
- how the sector is structured
- the type of educational and training opportunities colleges provide
- the quality of that provision
- colleges’ accountability.
We believe all of these can be best achieved by colleges working together far more collaboratively than they have, within defined regions across Scotland. As a result, last year we launched two formal consultations, Putting Learners and the Centre and a separate consultation specifically for colleges, to gather opinion and ideas about these proposals.
After considering all the responses to these consultations, we confirmed 12 college regions and are now working with individual colleges and the Scottish Funding Council to put the necessary arrangements into place from 2012-13. West Lothian was later confirmed as a 13th region. This will result in a number of colleges merging or working in much closer collaboration to ensure provision is efficient, high quality, and tailored to local needs.
In some regions, this will involve the creation of new regional boards to improve public accountability. The role of these boards will be to plan college provision strategically across the region and to be held to account for the delivery of regional outcomes. In regions with more than one college, existing incorporated college boards will work under the strategic direction of their regional board. Key figures in each region, such as Henry McLeish in Glasgow and Ian McKay in Edinburgh, will lead regional planning alongside the colleges. Legislation will be introduced at an early opportunity to reform colleges and establish the regional boards.
Informing this work was the recent review of college governance, by Professor Russell Griggs. This independent review was commissioned in June 2011 to ensure that colleges are being run in a transparent way with appropriate levels of accountability. On 28 June 2012, the Scottish Government published Reinvigorating College Governance: The Scottish Government Response to the Report of the Review of Further Education Governance in Scotland, setting out the way forward for college governance. On that day, the Cabinet Secretary for Education also confirmed the people he has invited to lead regional planning alongside the colleges.
A guide to college governance is now available, providing clarification and further information in response to a wide range of queries raised by the college sector. We will add to it as and when further queries emerge.
We are currently consulting stakeholders who may be affected on the proposed orders required to effect ‘merger’ in the college regions aiming to vest on 1 August 2013. Consultation letters will be issued for those aiming to vest on 1 November 2013 in the coming months.