The regional body governing college provision in Lanarkshire should be scrapped while others in Glasgow and the Highlands are "not tenable", according to the public body charged with funding further and higher education.

Glasgow should look at alternative organisational options, and University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) should consider consolidation and shared services, according to a critical analysis by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

The call comes seven years after the Scottish college sector was revamped to create 13 college regions, most with only one, large college in them.

But because the merger process was voluntary, three regions opted for a model involving a regional strategic body governing a number of colleges – two in Lanarkshire, three in Glasgow, and 13 in the Highlands and Islands.

A report by the SFC says the running of the three bodies “often involve tensions in governance and accountability structures, contested costs and funding authority, and unclear outcome gains for students and tax-payers”.

Of the Lanarkshire board, which includes representation from students and staff of New College Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire College it says that "despite best endeavours, the current governance arrangements are not well understood or accepted, and lead to constant friction".

It added: They distract both colleges from their main missions for students and economic recovery. Some may view the Lanarkshire situation as an unfinished merger that simply needs to complete.

"At some point, South Lanarkshire College, or both colleges together, may want to consider options for the future.


"For now, there is no widespread appetite locally for merger. Efforts to make the governance and the RSB [regional strategic body] unction effective are time-consuming for the Lanarkshire Board and its executive and are unlikely to change outcomes for students or local communities.

"We recommend that the RSB should be dissolved and both colleges manage themselves as separate regional entities, forming a direct relationship with SFC. For clarity, we also encourage both colleges to continue to be part of appropriate education, skills and economic recovery regional planning, and to build useful collaborations together or with other partners, and to foster strong economic planning partnerships at a Lanarkshire and wider Glasgow level."

The Glasgow Colleges Regional Board (GCRB) set up to help run the city's three colleges - City of Glasgow, Clyde and Glasgow Kelvin - was criticised over high costs in its early years.


The SFC said it was “meeting its core statutory requirements and has made good progress in delivering additional benefits through regionalisation”.

However, “that said, there are still mixed views within the assigned bodies themselves about the additional value being added by the RSB and the cumbersome nature of the four-board arrangement”. That refers to the college boards alongside the regional board.

The SFC said: “Agreeing the funding allocations across the three colleges remains challenging for GCRB, despite an efficient approach. Operating within tight timescales following SFC funding allocation decisions and negotiating agreement on key issues between four boards and senior managers has been time-consuming and difficult at times.”

It concluded that now was “an appropriate stage in its development for GCRB to begin conversations about further reformation of the structures in Glasgow that will facilitate the continued effective and efficient delivery of education and skills for the region. We recommend GCRB and the colleges explore other organisational options that build on and secure pan-regional planning, further efficiency gains, the financial viability of the constituent colleges, and a Glasgow front door for students, employers and other stakeholders. This should include options that may lead to reformation of the regional structure, and further consolidation that will fulfil regional and policy objectives.”

It said of the University of the Highland and Islands (UHI) regional strategic body that it was "yet to realise its full potential and deliver the significant wider aims of regionalisation, including curriculum planning, driving further regional coherence, strategic alignment and enhanced offers for students and stakeholders."

The SFC went on: “We recommend UHI considers consolidation, shared services, recalibrated roles and responsibilities, and options to ensure it survives and thrives, and gets closer to the original mission of a more fully integrated tertiary institution.”

A GRCB spokesman said it welcomed the SFC's "recognition of the positive progress made in the Glasgow college region".

The spokesman added:"We look forward to working closely with Glasgow Clyde, City of Glasgow and Glasgow Kelvin colleges on next steps and taking forward the report's recommendations."

A UHI spokesman said that the recommendations made by the SFC were "closely aligned" to the work already underway.

"We are aware of challenges ahead and are already working hard to address these in ways that enhance the experience of all our students, no matter where or what they are studying," the spokesman added.