Edinburgh strikes: Edinburgh College staff warn 'harsh' plans to axe 180 jobs will harm young people
Lecturers and staff are staging a lunchtime walkout on Tuesday (Febryary 6) on all four Edinburgh College campuses in protest at ‘harsh’ cuts, which would see entire courses closed down. The college, which has campuses in Granton, Midlothian, Sighthill and Milton Road, is under pressure to cut costs to make savings of £5m.
Around 180 staff are facing compulsory redundancy under plans by the principal, which has seen a backlash from staff who have already submitted a motion of no confidence in leadership. It comes amid rolling strikes by school teachers in the Capital and ‘unprecedented’ action by University staff over pay and conditions.
An Educational Institute of Scotland spokesperson said the move “will harm the young people of Edinburgh and our community in general”.
Lecturers have warned the cuts are ‘harsh’ for young people as many have turned to College for vital support after school learning took a hit during the pandemic.
The college said the “proposed curriculum reshaping consultation” would ensure that its curriculum fits with the region’s skills needs. The institution added that it was committed to working “openly and honestly” with staff.
But the union has said the cuts to courses based on pandemic figures are “short sighted”.
Several courses such as events management would be shut down altogether under the proposals while others would see teaching significantly reduced including civil engineering, hair and beauty and core skills.
The union spokesperson said: "This is particularly harsh timing for cuts. It will effectively shut the events course and hit others hard. It’s based on numbers from the pandemic. This is very short-sighted. Things like events were obviously affected by restrictions but they are now opening up again. Core skills like maths and literacy will be affected too, just as young people are coming to College after their school learning was hit during the pandemic. This will be harmful.”
"After years of under funding further education this is being badly managed. We need to see a voluntary redundancy scheme open up across all departments. We’ve had reports of staff feeling bullied into taking severance pay, which we take seriously and will investigate.”
Proposals would have a severe impact on students from less well-off backgrounds, the Union has said.
The Edinburgh EIS branch said colleges had an obligation to provide education and opportunities for the communities they serve and the mainly working-class students who attend. If the planned cuts go ahead they claim this role will be “a thing of the past.”
More than 500 lecturers affiliated to the Further Education Lecturers’ Association have urged Audrey Cumberford, the principal, and her senior management team to withdraw the prospect of redundancies. According to the college's most recent accounts, covering the 12 months to July 31, 2021, the college's income of £70.3m was outstripped by its expenditure (£76.9m).
In a foreword to the accounts, Ms Cumberford, whose pay rose over the period from between £165,000 to £170,000 to £190,000 to £195,000, described it as "one of the most challenging" years in the college's history.
An Edinburgh College spokesperson said: “A proposed curriculum reshaping consultation through an initial voluntary severance scheme is currently underway at our college. We continue to align our curriculum with the skills needs of our region and the people and partners we serve. We have undertaken a detailed review of the current curriculum, including data driven analysis of skills needs in the economy and student demand, to best inform any proposed plans for reshaping our curriculum offer.
“In addition, our college, along with all colleges in Scotland, are facing significant financial challenges brought about through real term cuts in funding and rising costs. It is important that we are responsive to the challenges we, and the sector, are facing in order to stabilise our financial position. We are committed to working openly and honestly with staff and are engaging with staff and meeting EIS-FELA representatives regularly throughout this time.”