Union fears over process of principal appointment for new Edinburgh College

Applicant: Mandy Exley
Applicant: Mandy Exley
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“DEEP concerns” have been raised over the process of appointing a principal for the new Edinburgh College.

Stevenson College will merge with Telford and Jewel & Esk colleges to create one super city college in October.

But the joint EIS Negotiating Committee for the three colleges has highlighted concerns over delays to the interview process for the new principal, as well as the salary for the new post not being made public.

The committee also said they were “gravely” concerned that one of the four applicants for the position – Mandy Exley – was currently working in the same role at Jewel & Esk College, where they said recent survey results had reported low staff morale and a lack of confidence in leadership.

However, Brian Lister, Interim Principal of the new Edinburgh College, which is expected to open on October 1, said staff and students had been kept fully informed regarding the delay to interviews and the reasons why. Interviews will now get underway on Monday, with the new principal expected to be announced early next month.

The colleges’ Joint EIS Negotiating Committee claimed the interviews were meant to take place months ago and were “long overdue”.

A statement issued on its behalf said: “Delays to the interview process are the first source of concern, particularly given the dearth of transparency as to the reasons behind the protracted delays.

“Given that the position will be funded with public money, we also wish to express reservations about the lack of information regarding remuneration.”

It added: “We are gravely concerned that one of the applicants for principal is currently in situ at Jewel & Esk College, which has this week – along with Stevenson and Telford College – released 
Denison survey results.

“For all three colleges, it reported low staff morale, a lack of confidence in operational procedures and leadership, high stress levels, uncertainty as to the future and poor communication on the part of Executive.”

The Joint EIS Negotiating Committee consists of two branch officials from each of the three colleges – six representatives in total.

They also claimed that there are no members of lecturing or support staff from the colleges on the appointments committee, which is responsible for appointing the new principal.

Interim Principal of Edinburgh College, Brian Lister, said there had been a number of “positive meetings” with unions throughout the merger to help keep their members informed of the process involved in appointing a principal. He added: “In June, following the appointment of the new Regional Lead for Edinburgh and Lothians, Ian McKay, we advised staff and students that the interview process had been delayed to allow Ian to play a key part in the selection process. Coming in the middle of the holiday period, problems of availability with the candidates and the selection panel caused the date of the interviews to be delayed until the week commencing August 27. We would hope to announce the new principal very early in September.”

Regarding the recent staff survey, Mr Lister said anyone would expect “a level of concern and unease at a time of change”.

“We are firmly focused on keeping both staff and students fully informed and engaged as we move towards what will be an important new development for Edinburgh and the Lothians – the new Edinburgh 
College,” he added.