Meeting airs concerns over college merger

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LOTHIANS Labour MSP Neil Findlay led a delegation of staff from Oatridge College, West Lothian, to meet Education Minister Mike Russell over concerns about its proposed merger with other colleges.

Staff at Oatridge and two other colleges, Elmwood in Fife and Barony near Dumfries, fear the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) will dominate the merger and that the teaching and independence of the other colleges will suffer as a result.

Mr Findlay said: “The staff at Oatridge and the other two colleges have legitimate concerns that the merger will have a detrimental impact on their ability to deliver their teaching programme.

“They are also concerned that the governance arrangements will be undemocratic and place the power in the hands of the SAC, which has less teaching output and an orientation that is much more commercial.

“Mike Russell gave the staff a fair hearing and we hope after he deliberates over the broad consultation he re-balances the proposed merger in a way that is much clearer and fairer than that which has been proposed.”

Sarah Reay, a lecturer at Oatridge, said she was “heartened” by the meeting. She said: “The Minister appeared to share our concerns about the frantic speed of the merger process and he acknowledged our concern that the proposed board of management is SAC dominated.”