Edinburgh College faces £5.1m deficit


EDINBURGH College – the largest college in Scotland – is facing a deficit in excess of £5m, according to a new report.

The college – which has a roll of around 30,000 – is also getting fewer students to the end of their courses.

Course completion rates have dropped by 6% over a one year period and Edinburgh College is failing to recruit enough new students.

Now the authors of the report – the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) – have expressed their concerns about the future of the college.

The college’s latest evaluation report – published last week – says that the accounts for 2014-15 show a deficit of 5.1m over an 18 month period.

It also reveals that course completion rates for full time learners has dropped from 65.4% in 2013-14 to 59.6% in 2014-15.

Course completion is headed down
Course completion is headed down

The report also says that they have struggled to attract new students, and that progress towards delivering a new curriculum has been slow.

The report comes after a merger in 2012 – which saw Edinburgh’s Jewel and Esk, Telford and Stevenson colleges combine under the umbrella of Edinburgh College.

The SFC report took a dim view of the progress of the college since the merger – saying that it was not “at the level projected for academic year 2015-16.”

It adds: “While this merger has made progress in many areas, significant aspects of the college face challenges and remain under question.”

The authors even said that they had “heard of inconsistencies in student experience of processes across campus and curriculum areas”.

And it even suggests that – instead of an ongoing review process – the college should submit itself to “a programme of additional scrutiny”.

Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said: “The Scottish Funding Council has clearly raised significant concerns about Edinburgh College, most importantly about the financial pressures which are making for very challenging situations for staff and students.

“It is essential that the principal and her team work quickly and effectively with the Scottish Funding Council to address these concerns and ensure that the college is put back on a sure financial footing.

“Of course, there are wider issues at stake too. Under the SNP, colleges have faced substantial cuts at the same time as having to face up to some controversial decisions about the merger programme.

“It seems that the fallout from this is hampering the ability of some colleges to respond to the needs of their local economy and to ensure that there is diversity in the provision of places.

“Just like higher education, there is an urgent need to review the funding structures for further education.”

Edinburgh College principal Annette Bruton said: “We’ve been working closely with the SFC and have been upfront about the issues faced since the merger, so there are no surprises in the report.

“We know that our curriculum hasn;t been the right shape or size since merger and that’s the most crucial area to get right, to ensure recruitment and retention are solid and that our financial model is sustainable.

“We have a plan for developing the curriculum needed by students, businesses and the region as a whole, so over the next three years of the transformation plan we will continue to work with the SFC and other partners to deliver this.”

Since its merger, Edinburgh College has faced a number of problems, including strikes by staff and a vote of no confidence in the previous principal.

Glasgow Clyde College – one of the other recently merged insitutions – has also suffered from a number of problems.

In February last year the principal Susan Walsh was suspended amid claims that her management style was adverserial and the college was suffering from a debt crisis.