Up to 22 lecturers at Perth College could be facing redundancy amid plans to cut community education programmes, it can be revealed.
While discussions on the plans are at an early stage, it is understood that jobs could be lost in the college’s community education programmes.
This includes part-time and evening courses such as French and Spanish.
Other community education programmes offered by the college include digital photography, cake decoration and jewellery making.
Community education under threat
The college’s principal says that uptake for the courses has been poor, meaning they are not viable to run.
Education union the EIS, which represents the vast majority of lecturers, says it will not rule out industrial action over the proposals.
A spokesman said: “We are prepared to talk all possible steps, including industrial action, to halt compulsory redundancies.
“We do remain willing to talk to the college to agree a resolution to this dispute, but are currently awaiting a response from management to a number of pertinent issues we raised with them some time ago.”
It comes after a group of concerned lecturers raised concerns about cost-cutting at the college having a damaging impact on learning.
Perth College is one of 13 partner colleges in the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) network.
A curriculum review is under way across the network, but the proposal to slash community education is separate to this review.
Lecturers told The Courier previously that they feared the process would cut costs at the expense of learning.
Professor Todd Walker, UHI’s principal, also attracted criticism after his appointment when he told one newspaper that the days of “vanity courses” at the institution were over.
Now we know that despite his apology it is exactly this provision that Perth College want to end
Prof Walker later clarified his remarks and apologised for any distress his comments caused.
But now, a lecturer at UHI says that the latest proposals shows Prof Walker’s threat to end “vanity courses” could be realised.
They told us: “We can only assume that when the principal spoke about ‘vanity courses’ he meant our community education provision.
“Now we know that despite his apology it is exactly this provision that Perth College want to end.”
Others have suggested that instead of cutting courses, savings could be made through a review of UHI’s management structure, which includes Prof Walker and a team of 16 senior managers responsible for the “overall operation” of the university.
Each of the 13 partner colleges, including Perth, also has its own principal and management team.
Staff at the college who contacted The Courier claim UHI has more senior managers than every other college in Scotland combined.
Elsewhere in the UHI network, staff have called for a government inquiry into the college’s management in a letter reported in The Press and Journal.
Addressing the latest proposals, Dr Margaret Cook, Perth College UHI principal, told The Courier: “We are at early-stage discussions in relation to our community learning courses.
“While we recognise the value and importance of community learning, despite repeated attempts to launch these courses, unfortunately the uptake has been very poor over the last three years, meaning the courses are no longer viable to run.”
We are working with our staff to review all possible options in relation to this provision
College principal Dr Margaret Cook
Dr Cook says all colleges are under severe funding pressure and will have to use their resources in the best way possible to get value for money.
She added: “Consequently, we are working with our staff to review all possible options in relation to this provision.
“No decisions have been made and we continue to work with all our staff to prepare our students towards a successful future and support the economic recovery of our region.”