The Scottish Government is considering disbanding the Glasgow and Lanarkshire college boards in favour of creating single-college regions.

Doing so would leave the Highlands and Islands as the only remaining multi-college region. 

The Glasgow Colleges Regional Board works with the City of Glasgow College, Glasgow Clyde College and Glasgow Kelvin College and handles roughly £200 million annually.

The Lanarkshire region includes New College Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire College. 

The multi-college regions were initially created because the Scottish Government believed that colleges in those areas would need to collaborate closely to meet their goals of streamlining student progression and avoiding too much duplication in provision.

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However, in comments to the Scottish Parliament on May 16, Minister for Higher and Further Education Graeme Dey said that he wanted to reform the Glasgow Colleges Regional Board and the Lanarkshire Board.

“I have taken time to consider the Scottish Funding Council’s advice and the practicalities and implications of implementing any changes within the Glasgow and Lanarkshire college regions, in the context of wider reform. It was right to listen to different perspectives and concerns.

"That process is now complete, and I can confirm to Parliament today that I intend to undertake a formal consultation on the future of the Glasgow Colleges Regional Board and the Lanarkshire Board, as I am required to do, with my preferred option being to dissolve both boards."

Mr Dey’s recommendations came off the back of a report from the Scottish Funding Council, which found that the makeup of the Glasgow and Lanarkshire regional boards created complications for funding distributions oversight.

According to the government’s consultation document, “The original intentions of college regionalisation were to reduce duplication of provision, streamline quality learner pathways and ensure closer alignment to regional economies. This was to be fulfilled through establishing and placing duties on a small number of single college regions, each governed through a board of management led by a Ministerially appointed Chair.”

This resulted in the creation of 13 college regions: 10 regions with a single college and three multi-college regions (Glasgow, Lanarkshire and the Highlands and Islands).

The regionalisation project and following mergers took the total number of colleges in Scotland from 41 in 2011 to 24. 

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Typically, individual colleges have their own relationships with the SFC for receiving and being held accountable for funding. But in the multi-college regions, this is managed by a regional strategic body (RSB).

Although the RSBs have collaborative benefits, the SFC report found that the “status quo is not tenable”, in particular, because the distribution of powers, benefits and funding becomes convoluted.

In laying out the reasons for the public consultation, the Scottish Government argues that “reform is needed, particularly to remove the cumbersome governance arrangements and improve college accountability.”

The consultation has opened and will run through 20 September