Colleges: Tripartite Alignment Group minutes - 20 December 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the Scottish Government group on 20 December 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Jess Dolan (Chair), Scottish Government
  • Liz Hawkins, Scottish Government
  • Elizabeth Mackin, Scottish Government
  • Edmund Anderson, Scottish Government
  • Fraser Syme, Scottish Government
  • David Baldie, Scottish Government
  • Lynne Raeside, Scottish Funding Council
  • Richard Maconachie, Scottish Funding Council
  • Martin Boyle, Scottiish Funding Council
  • Shona Struthers, Colleges Scotland
  • Andy Witty, Colleges Scotland
  • Joanna Campbell (Dumfries & Galloway College), Colleges Scotland
  • Simon Hewitt (Dundee & Angus College), Colleges Scotland
  • Alan Williamson (Edinburgh College), Colleges Scotland

Items and actions

Note of last meeting

Attendees confirmed they are content with the note of the last meeting.

Budget and reform – Minister’s statement 5 December

  • conversations remain ongoing with stakeholders following draft budget on 19 December. The challenging financial environment brings the work of this group and the reform agenda into even sharper focus, with the Minister looking for this Group to reconvene early in the new year to discuss what improvements can be made in the short term

Asset disposals

  • SFC are still waiting on a response from SG regarding the proposal in their paper for a £10m threshold – this will enable them to develop rules/framework
  • SFC will be meeting SG Infrastructure colleagues in the new year to discuss the potential mechanism for carrying money across financial years
  • it would be helpful to have as comprehensive a list as possible of unused properties, their value, and their geographical spread


  • SFC to send their proposed unused property asset register to SG to circulate among the group
  • SG to provide response to SFC on proposed £10m threshold in the early new year
  • CS to follow up with colleges to identify unused property

Credit Flexibility Working Group

  • CS confirmed positive impact of flexibilities although they have been more useful to some colleges than others, and would welcome clarity on what flexibilities will be in place for AY 2024/25
  • SFC consider the flexibilities in place in AY 2023/24 to be permanent changes to the system as opposed to temporary flexibilities – so these will continue in AY 2024/25
  • SFC confirmed there is an important distinction in the language used around flexibilities as that term suggests a temporary fix, while the current ‘flexibilities’ will carry forward to future AYs and are now considered changes to the funding model
  • SFC will be conducting analysis of Quarter 1 FES data


  • SFC will share the FES data analysis with the group
  • CS will pull together the broader reflections from the sector regarding potential changes to the system and will share these with the SFC

Cost methodology

  • SFC advised that while most colleges should have a costing model, the diversity across the sector creates issues around comparability
  • SFC have drafted a project plan and a paper which requires some further work and possible discussions with the Finance Directors Group


  • SFC will share their paper with this group ahead of the next meeting
  • CS will share the data they have on credit prices with the SFC

Comms plan

  • ministers have referenced the work of this group publicly on a number of occasions and attendees agreed that to provide transparency, and reassurance to the sector that solutions to immediate pressures are being sought, there is a need for a dedicated SG webpage for this group
  • it was also agreed that it would be helpful for the Minister to write to the sector to clarify the purpose and membership of the group, and to flag the existence of the webpage


  • SG will create a webpage and draft a letter from the Minister to the sector

Next meeting

23 January 10.00am – 11.30am with the Minister for Higher Education, Further Education and Veterans attending.


Tripartite Alignment Group

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