Colleges: Tripartite Alignment Group minutes - 13 March 2024

Minutes from the meeting of the group on 13 March 2024.

Attendees and apologies

  • Stuart Greig (Chair), Scottish Government
  • Jess Dolan, Scottish Government
  • Liz Hawkins, Scottish Government 
  • Edmund Anderson, Scottish Government
  • Luise Siekman, Scottish Government
  • Fraser Syme, Scottish Government 
  • Lynne Raeside, Scottish Funding Council 
  • Richard Maconachie, Scottish Funding Council
  • Simon Hewitt (Dundee and Angus College Principal), Colleges Scotland
  • Alan Williamson (Edinburgh College, Finance Director), Colleges Scotland
  • Andy Witty, Colleges Scotland 
  • Joanna Campbell (Dumfries and Galloway College Principal) , Colleges Scotland 
  • Angus Campbell (UHI), Colleges Scotland

Items and actions

Note of last meeting

CS to confirm they are content with changed wording in note of last meeting so that  it can be published on the Group’s webpage.
SFC to chase up IT department working on the Sharepoint site.
SG confirmed that a joint letter to the Education, Children and Young People Committee had been sent and will be published on the Group’s webpage. 

Asset Disposals
SG confirmed that progress can be made on this quickly once an indicative register of available assets (and assets that could become available over the next 5 years) is made available; and SFC need this to be able to take forward discussions with SG Infrastructure colleagues. 
There was discussion around the general duty on the public sector to release assets that aren’t in use, but SG emphasised that this register is indicative only - presence of an asset on the register is not a commitment to sell.
CS confirmed that 9 colleges identified land or buildings for disposal in October 2023, and that a further 9 identified potential land or buildings for disposal - but no details were provided in relation to market value, and these numbers may not be exhaustive as some colleges have intimated they have not been asked.
There was discussion around sequencing, with the indicative register of assets required before further work and discussions can take place.

CS to compile an indicative register of available assets by 27 March, including what might come to market over the next 5 years.

College Funding Group
SFC advised they are monitoring how the changes implemented last year are working as this sets the context for considering further flexibilities. Currently colleges have very limited exposure to recovery. 
With ‘blanket’ fixes difficult to find, SFC suggested they could have discussions with individual colleges, or groups of colleges, about curriculum transformation over the next few years using credits as part of the ‘currency’.  SFC were clear that this is initial thinking only and would need careful discussion and development. 
Although very early in its thinking, the Group agreed that such a ‘bespoke’ approach would be helpful and CS would welcome further discussions on it.
There was discussion around the ongoing financial pressures that colleges are under and the risk that poses to sustainability - pay awards and the loss of FWDF funding, for example.
CS raised the issue of colleges that are unable to meet the demand for credit delivery and it was agreed that this is an important issue which the Group should come back to; but the Group understands that there is a limited pot of funding and for the SFC to direct further funding to colleges failing to meet demand, it would require them to take funding away from other colleges.
There was discussion around CDEL/RDEL and the difficulties that a tight budget is creating around the switch.
It was agreed that the issue around CDEL/RDEL now sits with SG, but input is needed from the SFC and colleges.

SFC to discuss further with CS and draft a proposal of what this bespoke agreement with institutions (or groups of institutions) would look like and share it with the Group. 
SG to escalate the CDEL/RDEL issue to Finance colleagues.

Cost methodology
It was agreed that as several colleges are still involved in an ongoing benchmarking exercise, this is something the Group will come back to in a future meeting. 

Schedule of meetings for remainder of year
It was agreed that the proposed schedule of meetings for the remainder of the year is indicative, but it is helpful to get dates in people’s calendars, so if no Group members advise the secretariat of proposed changes then calendar invites will be issued.

Future areas for the Group to focus on
The Group was asked to consider the next issues it should look at, with the suggestion that these should be worked up as practical expressions of issues for colleges for which the Group can generate solutions. 
There was discussion around the merits of shared services and meeting demand in certain localities being part of the next set of issues.

SG will commission the Group to bring ideas to the next meet

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