Wee colleges feel pressure to merge

June 23, 1995

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council's latest allocations have come under attack for putting disproportionate pressure on smaller colleges.

At St Andrew's College, Scotland's national Roman Catholic college of education, which could face the loss of almost a third of its academic staff, the University Lecturers' Association has accused SHEFC of forcing teacher training colleges into mergers with larger institutions.

Scotland's three remaining free-standing education colleges, including St Andrew's, whose student intakes are fixed by Government, were all safety-netted this year by SHEFC to ensure they did not suffer a cut of more than 1 per cent in the 1995/96 allocations. Because of their fixed student numbers they cannot expand to bring in more money but they will get the safety net funds only when they have produced a plan to eliminate their dependency on the safety net. Almost half of the Pounds 1.9 million safety net funding, Pounds 904,000, goes to St Andrew's.

Tony Worthington, Labour MP for Clydebank and Milngavie, has written to John Sizer, SHEFC's chief executive, arguing that a reclassification of primary teaching courses within SHEFC's funding formula would alleviate the severity of the cuts, which he says fall "disproportionately upon the teacher education area in general and upon St Andrew's College in particular."

The governing body will consider a rationalisation plan at the end of this month under which academic staff numbers would fall from 91 to 63 by 1998.

A spokesman for Cardinal Winning, Scotland's leading Catholic churchman, who had a private meeting with SHEFC this week, said: "We see a definite threat to the quality of education when you reduce staff by these numbers."

Professor Sizer said he could not comment until the plan had been received and analysed.

The education colleges were faced with a situation largely outside their control because of Government quotas, he said, but the safety net was essentially a tax on the rest of the system.

Professor Sizer said SHEFC had warned of a tough funding round this year, and stressed that the colleges must demonstrate that teaching quality would not be damaged.

* Alistair Rowan, principal of Edinburgh College of Art, said the art colleges' position was "very grim" following annual grant cuts from SHEFC. He said that their studio-based teaching could not be rationalised and they lacked research income.

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