Catholic culture rattles Glasgow

April 23, 2004

Tensions between Catholic and secular staff in Glasgow University's education faculty are still running high five years after the university merged with Scotland's only Catholic college of education, according to a funding council review.

Roger McClure, chief executive of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, says in a report that the tensions are still "very apparent" and the merger can be seen as only a qualified success.

Mr McClure's comments come in Shefc's second evaluation of the 1999 merger between Glasgow and St Andrew's College. The first review flagged up denominational stresses. It said Glasgow University had underestimated the difficulty of merging with "a distinct institution with its own particular culture". It called for an improved working relationship with the Board of Catholic Education, which includes representatives of the university and the Bishops' Conference.

But in the latest report for Jim Wallace, the lifelong learning minister, Mr McClure says difficulties have continued in integrating the Catholic ethos with the wider faculty.

"The board had concerns that the importance of the formation of Catholic teachers was not well understood by the faculty. On the other hand, the university believes that Catholic students are now benefiting from an education within a more diverse social and multi-faith community," it says.

Mr McClure says that the responsibilities of the board, the faculty and the university need to be clarified and that communication should be improved, with regular meetings between the principal, other senior managers and senior church representatives.

Shefc is also "disappointed" with progress in boosting research. The faculty has set itself a target of doubling the number of staff in the 2008 research assessment exercise from 20 to 40, nearly half its staff.

But Mr McClure says the university underestimated the challenge of creating a research culture throughout the faculty and overestimated the commitment of some of the former college staff to conducting research.

Hirek Kwiatkowski, dean of the education faculty, said the university would continue to take steps to strengthen educational research. It remained committed to enhancing the quality of teacher education and to the professional education of teachers for Catholic schools.

While Shefc indicated that there would not be a formal follow-up, the university said it would check on progress in these areas in September.

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