A SCOTTISH college involved in a row over bonuses to senior staff has been heavily criticised for the management culture at one of its campuses.

James Watt College is under fire for paying 11 members of its senior team up to £5000 extra each. Now it has been described in a report as having a stressful, disorganised and badly led structure in place at its site in Kilwinning in North Ayrshire.

Even members of the institution's own management team described the college as badly led in the survey of staff, and also described the prevailing culture as unimaginative.

A review was carried out to assess the prevailing cultures in three colleges as they move towards merger under plans for a new Ayrshire College.

It is for these plans that the large bonuses were paid to James Watt's senior team based at its main campus in Greenock, Inverclyde.

Ayr College fared slightly better in the study, but its staff labelled it stressful and uncaring. Kilmarnock College workers in Ayrshire said the college was well led, with high standards.

The report states: "In particular, Kilmarnock respondents seem particularly positive and James Watt particularly critical."

The report goes on: "It is very clear from this that, while managers at Ayr and Kilmarnock see their colleges very positively, this is not the case with management at James Watt.

"Teaching staff at all three colleges see their college as presenting a stressful environment. However, at James Watt this appears to be compounded by perceptions of disorganisation."

The survey also found only 15% of staff trusted their senior management team at James Watt, which until recently was led by principal Sue Pinder, while just 14% of middle managers agreed with the statement: "I trust the senior staff leading the college."

The report comes just days after The Herald revealed that James Watt, which has its headquarters in Greenock, Inverclyde, was under fire after sanctioning bonus payments to senior staff worth a total of almost £60,000.

The payments were for work carried out to help set up the new merged college in Ayrshire and Inverclyde.

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland teaching union said the latest report identified serious concerns about the management culture in the colleges involved.

"The evidence shows that, in general, college employees trusted their colleagues and their immediate line-managers, but had very low levels of trust in the senior management," he said.

"For both Ayr College and James Watt College the trust in senior managers was extremely low and this is a very troubling situation which highlights the serious concerns staff had over the way their colleges were managed."

Dr Derek Little, chairman of the board of James Watt, questioned the methodology of the survey and said staff had been unsettled by the merger process.

"I am pleased that, overall, it appears very positive and I am sure it will help the new management team of the soon-to-be-created Ayrshire College to focus on priorities," he said.

"I am surprised, however, at the use of methodology that easily lends itself to manipulation and abuse, which I'm sure would be acknowledged by all involved.

"Also, it is hardly surprising that the raw data would appear to show that some members of staff at James Watt are uncertain and fearful about the future – after all, of all colleges in Scotland, theirs is the only one being torn in two by the regionalistion process and the only one which will be unrecognisable in the new set-up."