EIS urges MSPs to show support for keeping Shetland College public

The EIS has written to MSPs seeking their support for the campaign to Keep Shetland College Public.

The EIS will hold an online briefing for MSPs tomorrow (Tuesday) to highlight the dangers of current proposals to register the college as a private company – this would be the first time in history that a Scottish Further Education college would transfer from public ownership into control by a private company.

Shetland College is currently part of Shetland Islands Council (SIC). It is being merged with Train Shetland (also part of SIC) and the North Atlantic Fisheries College Marine Centre UHI (NAFC), which is an unincorporated college governed by a Board of Trustees. The EIS are not opposed to this merger.

The EIS is opposed to the recommended business plan, approved by SIC, that the new Further Education college (Shetland College UHI) is to be unincorporated and is registered as a private company limited by guarantee.

Privatisation of Shetland College would mean:

  • The new college would not be subject to the same level of Scottish Government oversight as the vast majority of other colleges across Scotland.

  • The college would not be a public body, accountable in law to the democratically elected Scottish Parliament.

  • Board members would only be liable up to the financial ceiling set when the company is formed (recommended to be as little as £1 per member).

  • The private limited company would be allowed to build up unlimited financial reserves, unlike incorporated public colleges, meaning money would not have to be re-invested into teaching and learning. This would be despite the majority of funding continuing to come from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) i.e. tax-payers’ money.

  • The college would not be subject to full reporting by Audit Scotland on their financial stability.

  • The college could not have the Board of Management withdrawn by Scottish Ministers if necessary.

One member of staff in the college said, “"Privatising our tertiary education, at a time when the economy is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, will do nothing to give our community confidence and trust that our college is here to serve every student who needs us now more than ever."

Another member of staff added, ““The future of education and learning in Shetland is not a commodity to be bought and sold. The current proposal to transfer Shetland College to a Private Limited Company, provides no information on what will happen to Further Education in Shetland if things go wrong and the  ‘Company’ is dissolved. Staff, students and the people of Shetland deserve to have security in knowing their jobs, educational needs and those of future generations are valued and protected.”

Further information on the briefing for MSPs and on the merger process is attached, for information.