Commenting on the Audit Scotland report on Scotland’s Colleges, published today (Thursday), EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said:

“The EIS welcomes the publication of this in-depth Audit Scotland report on Scotland’s Colleges. While the report is extremely detailed, the information it contains is set out clearly and offers valuable insight into the Scottish Further Education sector. The EIS welcomes the increase in the number of students accessing further education in the last year, particularly for part-time learners and the fact that 82.7% of students go onto a positive destination. This is a credit to the hard work of college staff and students alike.”

Mr Flanagan continued, “However, the EIS is concerned to note that attainment gap between students from the least and the most deprived areas is continuing to grow.  Although colleges are making an increased contribution to widening access, there is still work to be done to ensure equality of opportunity for all students in further education.”

On college finances and, specifically, the binding commitment on colleges regarding equal pay across the sector, Mr Flanagan said, “It is encouraging to note that over the period when pay harmonisation for lecturers is being implemented, the overall financial position of the college sector is improving. However, despite a reported surplus of £0.3m (a notable improvement from the £8m deficit reported last year) and with more than £3m being invested in Arms’ Length Foundations, college lecturers are facing a real-terms pay cut, with management making a 2.5% consolidated pay offer over three years.”

Mr Flanagan added, “The EIS has noted Colleges Scotland’s claim that the total cost of harmonisation is estimated at £50m per year from 2019-20 and the statement in the report that this would absorb the projected savings of college reform.  We have not seen any evidence to support these claims at the NJNC (National Joint Negotiating Committee) and would question the basis upon which these comments have been made when the 2015 Audit Scotland Report itself challenged how much of the estimated £50m could actually be attributable to college reform.”

Commenting on the recommendation that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) should assess and report on the extent to which the Regional Strategic Bodies (RSBs) are meeting the aims of regionalisation in multi-college regions, Mr Flanagan said, “The EIS looks forward to publication of this report.  Fundamental principles of good college governance are transparency and accountability.  It is essential that there is a clear understanding of the responsibilities and lines of accountability for both assigned colleges and the RSBs, with the RSBs facilitating collaborative working rather than being perceived as adding an additional layer of bureaucracy and cost.”