Fife College’s new principal has pledged to work hard to win more investment in education and focus on delivering for students and the Fife economy after settling into his new post.
Hugh Hall may only be weeks into the role but the former chief operating officer at Strathclyde University is in no doubt about the direction he wants to take an institution which is responsible for around 22,000 learners over five main campuses across the Kingdom.
Having met with staff and students across Fife after taking the reins from predecessor Hugh Logan, Mr Hall’s mantra is very much about creating capacity, cutting bureaucracy and freeing frontline staff up to do their jobs.
And with that in mind, the new chief is also committed to maximising the resources at his disposal – whilst also positioning the college to increase its commercial income.
“We’re about creating opportunities for people and transforming their lives, and for me it’s a great privilege to be part of that,” he commented.
“Over half of the Scottish Government budget is now spent on health and social care. The inevitability is that that is going to increase over the coming years, and a lot of that money is spent in dealing with the consequences of societal issues.
“What education can do is help address those societal issues, improve people’s lives and impact positively on the health and social care system. Education is not only an investment in skills and in the economy, it’s an investment in people’s wellbeing.
“If there’s going to be a squeeze in public funding education can become an easy target as the benefits are perhaps not immediately apparent.
“If you actually think about some of the things we do to help improve people’s life chances, it can in turn help reduce dependence on the health and social care system.
“We are not only about education, we’re about social transformation as well.
“So I’ve got great respect for the team at Fife College because they are doing some fantastic work in fairly challenging circumstances.
“I want to free up people to get on and do their jobs. My job is to make sure they’ve got clear strategic direction and the resources and infrastructure to do their jobs well.”
With funding tight, Mr Hall is well aware that resources will be stretched and he confirmed that he is currently looking at the range of courses provided by Fife College to ensure the right balance.
He noted: “Are we training people in the right skills to support Fife’s future economic needs, in digital, in construction and in health and social care? Employability is a priority and that means equipping people with skills that will result in them finding a job.
“I’ve reassured the staff that I’m not going to make big changes for changes sake – the staff have been through regionalisation to create Fife College so I’m not about to throw it up in the air as the incoming chief.
“But I do want to reflect and make sure that we’re actually providing the right training and education in the right place and that’s going to take a bit of time.
“Colleges generally live hand to mouth financially and we’re part of the public sector accounting arrangements so we’ve got limitations in terms of things like our ability to borrow.
“But I want to encourage people to think about how we can generate new business opportunities and new income streams to bolster the funding we receive from the Scottish Funding Council.”
Mr Hall has joined at an exciting time for the college, which recently opened a new Levenmouth Campus and is progressing plans to build a new state-of-the-art campus in Dunfermline by 2020.
Indeed, he believes the Levenmouth venture could well set a trend across Scotland.
“Levenmouth Campus for me is a fantastic asset and I’m struggling to find another example of a similar joint campus in the whole of Scotland,” he added.
“So far we’ve put a building up – that’s the easy part.
“Now we’ve got to demonstrate that it is delivering the ambition.
“How has it improved engagement between the school and the college and the local community, how has it helped widen access for people to further education, how has it helped create a strong productive working relationship between the school and the college?
“The exciting thing for me is that when we evidence all of that, then we have a template that could be rolled out to other parts of Fife and Scotland.”