College stakeholders vote
KEY stakeholders at West Lothian College have come out in favour of the region remaining independent as part of the Government’s plans for the ‘regionalisation’ of Scotland’s colleges.
A meeting was held on February 6 in response to recently proposed changes to the college sector in the country, as well as the continuing uncertainty over next year’s potential budget cut of around 8.5 per cent.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Mike Russell, addressed the Scottish Parliament recently outlining his plans for post-16 education which would see colleges in the country organised into 12 regional clusters.
West Lothian College could be merged into regions with Edinburgh and Lothians or Central and collaborate more closely with other colleges as a result.
The meeting was organised by the college’s Board of Governors in response to a request from the local Trades Council.
Representatives from organisations including West Lothian Council and the NUS joined local MSPs and MPs, staff and students at the packed meeting at the college.
And the evening saw the unanimous vote of support in favour of the college remaining an independent institution, supporting the region of West Lothian.
There was also great support shown for calls to increase the capacity of the college in the coming year to reflect both the growing size in the West Lothian population and the demand for places from the Government’s own priority group of 16 to 19-year-olds.
West Lothian College Principal, Mhairi Laughlin, said: “I am delighted with the support the college have received from the wider West Lothian Community Council, the Community Planning Partnership as well as local businesses and our MSPs and MPs to retain our local focus and develop our curriculum.”
Both college and council officials have also recently met with Mike Russell to discuss the proposed reforms.
As well as those at the meeting unanimously expressing their wish for West Lothian College to stand alone and distinct from other colleges, many also expressed concern at cuts to the college teaching grant and the implications for jobs, courses and student places.
Neil Findlay MSP, Shadow Minister for Skills and Learning, praised the work of the college and the meeting.
He said: “The amount of people in attendance and the support expressed for West Lothian College underlined how important the college is for West Lothian.
“West Lothian College are a vital cog in helping provide opportunities for the people of the area and in helping to grow the local economy.
“I believe it is essential that the college retain their unique local character.”