Letter to MSPs

Created on: 09 Nov 2023 | Last modified: 11 Apr 2024

Dear [constituency and regional MSPs]

Shetland College UHI - Academic Restructure and Redundancies 

The Principal of UHI Shetland has announced that 18.07 full time equivalent lecturer posts have to be axed in a round of targeted voluntary redundancy. This is the equivalent to almost one third of all lecturers and the academic section to bear the biggest brunt is Community Learning and Business with management’s aim being to delete this section entirely and cut over 9FTE posts from this area. 

Culture and Creative Industries is the next section to bear the brunt of lecturer cuts and the rationale given for this is that these areas do not ‘financially contribute’ to the College in the same way that other sections do. Community Learning and Business offers courses to students with additional support needs in the form of Lifeskills and Access to Core Skills classes, In addition the section offers courses in core skills, employability, ESOL, access to education, Hospitality, Professional Cookery, Business and Accounting, supporting emotionally, psychologically, physically and financially vulnerable students; Culture and Creative Industries offers courses in Art & Design, Fine Art, Textiles, Music and Film-making. 

Management have advised that they are also seeking a reduction in lecturer posts in Marine Science, Technology, Maritime & Built Environment, and Health, Care and Society as they still do not ‘contribute’ 40% or more to the costs of running the sections. 

The Principal of UHI Shetland has explained the rationale for these cuts being, alternatively, “due to pay and pension cost increases that occurred after the original (merger business) case was modelled”, flat-rate funding from the Scottish Government via UHI, and a reduction in SFC’s funding for credit allocations. 

Whilst the EIS-FELA branch is disputing some of the figures given, including staffing figures and how certain courses are supposed to financially contribute to 40% running costs, the point is that these cuts are taking place in the context of ‘business rationale’ and financial considerations only.  Nonetheless, this job loss will come with a cut to educational provision which will have a considerable impact on the local economy and potentially contributing to depopulation in Shetland.

We have not yet seen an Equality Impact Assessment, there is no conversation about the educational rationale for keeping these posts, and no risk analysis of a reduction of courses for the most vulnerable students. Furthermore, there does not appear to have been an Island Communities Impact Assessment carried out. 

We are now two years on from the merger of Shetland College, NAFC Marine Centre and Train Shetland where the Ministerial merger business case promised that non-incorporation would allow for more ‘financial flexibility’ including from other funding sources not available to incorporated colleges, allowing for a wide range of courses available in Shetland to secure and long-lasting employment which benefits the local community.  The Ministerial merger business case made clear a commitment to maintain skills for work programmes, foundation apprenticeships and modern apprenticeships; develop modules supporting the widening access and participation agenda; to ensuring strong, resilient communities through maintaining Learning Centres in remote and rural locations; to introduce tourism as a new discipline; introduce a new “career shifter” programme for adult returners; diverse range of courses including NC and Highers; programme of outreach and flexible learning and allow for specialist equipment to be used to help start-up businesses. 

The Merger Business Case also made it clear there was an ongoing commitment to courses and learning in specific areas such as hospitality, events management, business studies, accounting, core skills and creative/cultural areas – these are now all under threat. 

Furthermore, the merger business case clearly states that the curriculum should have “accessible provision for people of all ages, at all stages in their lifelong learning journey from all areas of Shetland”

All of these points are now under threat with job losses, course cuts, and the muted decision to close Lerwick campus and move to a single campus in Scalloway.  Furthermore, we are concerned that the College still has not been officially assigned to UHI with funding still coming via, we understand, Perth College and is still only shadowing national bargaining framework, despite assurances that the College would become a full signatory to the National Recognition and Procedures Agreement on vesting. 

EIS-FELA officials have written to invite you to a meeting at 4pm on Monday 20th November, Room 12, Islesburgh Complex, King Harald St, Lerwick, ZE1 0EQ in order to discuss these cuts, the impact to ASN provision in Shetland, and how you can help us campaign for better.  I am urging you to attend this meeting if possible. If not, I would be obliged if we could arrange a time to discuss your support further. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

{lecturer, support staff, student, parent/carer, teacher, constituent etc}