Review of tertiary education (Les Sinclair)

The past two editions of The Shetland Times have carried articles relating to a planned review of tertiary education in Shetland.

Since its inception, Shetland College has had seven principals and acting principals. Only one of these appointments was the result of an open advert and interview process. The rest were all moved into the principal’s post when their faces ceased to fit in the posts they already held within the SIC.

Since its inception, every single external audit of Shetland College carried out by HM Inspectorate of Education has consistently criticised the college management, and has consistently praised the work of the staff who deliver education and the staff who support that delivery.

A stress audit using the Health and Safety Executive Management Standards was initiated in Shetland College in May 2010. As yet, three years later, no effective action to address the findings of that audit has been put into place by college management.

The audit exposed major failings in all stressor areas. Staff feedback at one session held in December 2010; and attended by only 17 staff out of the 80-odd employed by the college; identified 79 issues that caused them stress at work. Sixty-one of these related directly to management, and a further 10 related indirectly to management.

We now have a situation where SIC feels the need to employ a consultant to review the structure of tertiary education in Shetland. The consultant they have chosen is registered at Companies House under Standard Industrial Classification Code 7420: Architectural & Engineering Activities & Consultancy.

From the information available on their website, there does not appear to be anyone working for them who has a background in education management of any type. From the information registered at Companies House, they do not appear to have been particularly busy for the past three years.

The remit for the tertiary education review is confined to discussion with management, and does not appear to be designed to take any account of the views of users of tertiary education in Shetland, nor of the staff who deliver this provision.

The SIC employs two directors who have obvious interests in the structure of tertiary education in Shetland.  There are a further nine executive managers who should be legitimately expected to be able to contribute to a review of tertiary education. This does not include the incumbent management teams at Shetland College, the NAFC, Train Shetland and Adult Learning.

The information that is to hand through HMIE reviews, stress audit results, KPIs, etc, already goes a long way to informing any management review that is undertaken.

Why is there any need to employ a consultant to undertake this review? If such a need can be defined, would it not have been better to engage a consultant with a background in tertiary education?

Les Sinclair
8 Annsbrae Place,


Add Your Comment
  • JohnTulloch

    • April 16th, 2013 11:10

    Outstanding comment, Les.

    It would be a pity if it was lost in the Margaret Thatcher bunfight, SIC, note well!

  • Colin McKearney

    • April 17th, 2013 0:40

    I agree , Outstanding comment !! And it begs the question in these times of austerity / savings / cuts ect etc , What Are these 2 Directors AND 9 “Executive” so called managers doing ?? All on very very well paid jobs doing what exactly ?? , no doubt with another tier of underlings doing similar copious quantities of nothing…..

    Are the abolishment of the rural community skips / Cutting funding for Toilets / closing of the Freefield Centre , to mention a few cuts being carried out to sustain above mentioned drastically inept group of individuals in employment because to get rid of them would “upset” the local wider economy ?

    They always claimed they had to pay the high salaries to attract “The right” people……….I rest my case really…………

  • Sandy McDonald

    • April 17th, 2013 9:17

    I agree, why does it take 11 high paid jobs to achieve so little? Surely one, properly qualified and motivated person that knows how to make a decision could do much more. Always you see “committees” having “meetings” and deciding nothing. What does the college principle do for goodness sake? Or the head of school?

  • Colin McKearney

    • April 17th, 2013 19:22

    Exactly Sandy , AND to add insult to injury to hire a consultancy firm with no one with any experience in the field that needs to be addressed is lunacy…..and they havent been particularly busy………Hmmm , wonder why ? Ah I think ive got it , could it be that they arent particularly good , or maybe even totally useless ??


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