Glasgow & West Scotland

Board and chairman removed at Glasgow Clyde College

Glasgow Clyde College Image copyright Google

The chairman and governing board of Glasgow Clyde College have been removed by the Scottish government.

Ministers said they had taken action following "repeated incidences of failure relating to governance".

Education Secretary Angela Constance said the board's relationship with students had broken down.

In a statement to MSPs, she added that it had breached rules on spending public money and "mismanaged its finances".

The college's principal, Susan Walsh, has been suspended by the board since February on full pay, pending a review.

The government has appointed new board members and named former West Lothian Council chief executive Alex Linkston as the new chairman.

Some members of staff and students had claimed that Ms Walsh had a robust management style, but others praised her performance and dedication and denied there was a culture of bullying.

This is the first time that the government has used its powers to remove a college's chairman and board.

Glasgow Clyde College, which was established two years ago, employs about 1,000 people. It has three separate large campuses in Langside, Anniesland and Cardonald.

Image copyright College handout
Image caption College princial Susan Walsh was suspended in February

Ms Constance said the outgoing board had "failed to discharge its duties on a number of counts".

"Having considered all the information, and taken into account what is in the best interests and needs of students and staff at the college, I am clear that a new board is needed to take Glasgow Clyde College forward," she said.

"I am confident the new board will act quickly to forge a positive relationship with its 27,000 students and staff so the college can fully focus on supporting learners to achieve their ambitions and ensuring the institution plays a key role in the life of Glasgow, its people and its economy."

In an emergency statement, she told MSPs that she had been involved in a series of meetings between May and September, which also involved Scottish government officials, the Scottish Funding Council and Glasgow Colleges' Regional Board.

Ms Constance said the board had allowed its relationship with student representatives and the wider student population to deteriorate.

She said: "It did nothing to address that problem and does not accept there is a problem.

"The former board allowed its working relationship with student leaders to deteriorate until they no longer took an active role in the board.

"Indeed, the relationship with students broke down to the extent that none were prepared to stand for election to the board. Yet the board made no attempt to repair the relationship.

"It does not - even now - acknowledge that there has been a breakdown in its relationship with its student body."

She also said the board had breached "clear rules" on how colleges can spend public money.

Image caption Angela Constance made a statement to MSPs

"This includes limits on how much can be spent without a competitive tender. Beyond those limits, colleges must get approval from the Funding Council," she said.

"At Clyde, those rules were breached. In fact, the board committed to three times more expenditure than the rules allowed - over £90,000.

"In total, the board has committed over £200,000 on legal and professional fees. In short, it has mismanaged its finances."

MSPs were also told that the board failed to consider serious concerns - covering matters of propriety, process, procedure, conflict of interest and behaviour - which were raised by the principal in February.

And Ms Constance added that the board had failed to discharge a number of its functions appropriately.

Senior staff

"At important meetings, the board operated without proper agendas, without papers in advance of meetings, and without minutes that recorded discussions and decisions," she said.

"It operated without a board secretary in place. It improperly delegated an executive function to a member of the board."

Former board members have threatened to challenge the decision to dismiss them in court.

A statement from the group said: "The Glasgow Clyde College Board is stunned by today's decision to dismiss the board.

"All eight board members believe they have acted properly and with integrity in the best interests of the college, students and staff.

"The education secretary's decision today is unprecedented and unjustified. It is open to challenge in the courts.

"We call on the Scottish Parliament's education committee to conduct a full inquiry into the matter and we are ready to give our evidence."

In a statement, the college said it had been informed of the government's move on Thursday.

"An interim chair and board members have been appointed and senior college staff will work closely with them, as they take up their roles in ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place for the future governance of the college."

Teachers' union the EIS said it noted that the Scottish government had "taken action to attempt to address a complex situation related to the management and governance of Glasgow Clyde College".

'Public confidence'

It added: "However, the announcement did come as something of a surprise and there seems to have been a lack of consultation with staff representatives.

"The EIS-FELA branch at the college will now wish to consider the impact of this change while seeking to ensure that lecturers and students are properly supported through this challenging time."

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan added: "Recent concerns raised by the EIS in relation to college management were primarily focused on the role of principals rather than boards. It is imperative that these broader concerns that have been raised in relation to the management style of principals within colleges are addressed.

"It also remains essential that there is full staff engagement in any review of management operations within individual colleges and across the sector, and that lecturing staff should continue to be properly represented on all college boards."

New board chairman Alex Linkston said: "I am very pleased to take on this role.

"Public confidence in the governance of the college is essential to its success.

"I'm looking forward to working with the new board, students and staff to ensure it is well run and delivers the best possible outcomes for all those studying, working and engaging in other ways with the college."

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