Friday, 9 October 2015

Governance in Scotland

Interesting times in Scottish educational governance, with the news that the Education Secretary in the Scottish Government, Angela Constance, has used powers granted to her by the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Act 2013 to dismiss the Chair and Board of Governors at Glasgow Clyde College.

A Scottish chair
The action was taken, according to reports, on the grounds that the College's governing body had failed in a  number of ways - its "relationship with students had broken down" and it had "breached rules on spending public money". There's a back story which includes the suspension of the Principal: the waters look pretty murky to me.

According to the Scottish Government's informal guidance on the 2013 Act,
"The grounds for removal [of a Board] are where it appears to Ministers that a board: 
i) has committed or is committing a serious one-off breach of any term or condition of grant made to it by, in the case of a regional college, the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) [or by, in the case of an assigned college which is an incorporated college, its regional strategic body]; 
ii) has committed or is committing repeated breaches of such terms or conditions; 
iii) has failed or is failing to provide or secure the provision of education of such standard as the Ministers consider to be appropriate; 
iv) has failed or is failing to discharge any of their duties properly; or 
v) has mismanaged or is mismanaging its financial or other affairs."
which, given the press reports, seems to imply that maintaining a good relationship with the students is either part of educational standards (ii above) or a duty of a board of governors (iv above). The alleged breaches of financial procedures and proper governance of meetings would have been grounds under (i) for dismissing the board, so it does seem that there's a bigger point being made here.

What's interesting from a higher education perspective is the example of how the Scottish government chooses to use its powers of intervention. Currently under discussion in Scotland is legislation which would change the way in which university governance worked, including provisions for staff and student representation, and the election of chairs. And this is not without controversy.

So Scottish Universities now have an example before them on which they can reflect.

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