Colleges - Tripartite Alignment Group: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Colleges: Tripartite Alignment Group.


Following a session with the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education & Veterans, it was agreed that close, partnership working between Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council and Colleges Scotland (and including representatives from the college sector where beneficial) will help us work through urgent pressures and opportunities facing colleges. 

The approach expressed here in terms of partnership working will underpin wider work on reform of the post-16 education and school system develops.

Group purpose and duration

This small and focused alignment group will provide strategic direction on a tightly bound body of work examining and providing options on enhancing college financial flexibilities.  A list of areas of focus is detailed below.

This will be a 3 month initiative (August to October 2023).  The role of the group will then be reviewed in the context of the engagement and governance arrangements for Purpose and Principles and wider Education reform.

The alignment group will be supported by at least one short-life working group comprising staff from the tripartite of organisations, and by a representative working within the college sector, where appropriate. It is important the right people, with the right experience and knowledge, are able to engage with this work in order to meaningfully progress thinking.

It is expected that SG, SFC and CS will proactively support engagement between key colleagues.


The alignment group will include senior representation from Scottish Government, Scottish Funding Council and Colleges Scotland, namely:  Stuart Greig, Richard Maconachie, Lynne Raeside, Andy Witty and/or Shona Struthers.  The Chair will rotate amongst members in accordance to the area of focus.


This initiative is not intended to address all the issues and opportunities facing colleges.  It is a proof of concept exercise to see how closer working can help us be even more efficient and collaborative in how we tackle prescient and urgent issues.

Building on work already undertaken or underway, the group will direct the work of at least one working group, setting the agenda and culture for collaborative working and problem solving.

The alignment group will meet for 30 minutes every 2 weeks, and for 60 minutes every month to set the terms of the working group, monitor progress and provide strategic direction and guidance on issues as they are surfaced.  The group will provide a short update on progress to the Minister every 4 weeks.  

The first update opportunity is scheduled for 31 August 2023, at a meeting with the Minister – this replaces the 60 minute alignment group meeting in August.

Underpinning all of the work of the group is a commitment to proactive information-sharing, in order to offer assurance on the development of thinking on wider systemic issues which sit beyond the parameters of this group’s remit.

Short-life Working Group areas of focus

Priorities and target outputs

  • an agreed and actionable approach to enhancing the flexibilities on disposing of capital assets
  • exploration and development of actional approach in relation to enhancing flexibility for student support funding in FE contexts, (with consideration given to involving SAAS colleagues in relation to HE students)
  • development of appropriate methodology to determine accurate cost of teaching delivery in college settings in order to support wider considerations linked to questions of parity of funding at HND/HNC level across universities and colleges
  • using the development of future credit guidance as a testbed, create a structured approach for communication and engagement, led by SFC and supported by Colleges Scotland, in order to enhance levels of understanding of the impact of changes ahead of time
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