THE latest developments have their roots in the controversial decision taken by the SNP Government to restructure the sector and make colleges accountable to regional boards.

Between 2011 and 2014, the number of Scottish colleges reduced from 37 to 26 and there are 14 regional boards and colleges are also classified as public sector organisations.

But the restructuring has remained a controversial decision and the sector is still suffering from the repercussions.

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Reclassified as public bodies, the colleges were to co-ordinate with each other and with industry as part of a policy which prioritises full-time student places that lead to employment.

But Audit Scotland reported that no proper assessment was made of the impact of a 41 per cent drop in overall student numbers in the last eight years.

There were also questions raised about the governance structure, with calls for the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to play a more regulatory role.

There have also been a number of industrial disputes over pay among college staff, as moves to national pay deals and collective bargaining have progressed more slowly than anticipated.

Pay varied across Scotland’s 26 colleges, although all sides have committed to national bargaining.

The start of 2016 saw the new National Joint Negotiating Committee agree a commitment to give support workers the living wage across all colleges.

However, so far only one in five colleges can yet guarantee all employees the living wage, given the extent of the use of outside contractors.

Some lecturers can expect a pay increase as high as 33 per cent after the agreement to raise pay to the same levels at colleges across Scotland – though most will see a much smaller pay increase.

The new agreement will also give lecturers 23 teaching hours out of a 35-hour working week as well as a nine per cent pay rise.