Principals, funding reviews and college libraries

SLIC is preparing to publish its first annual survey of FE college libraries.  It is doing so in an education environment where Scotland’s Colleges have recently announced they have commissioned an independent review of the future of higher education.  Last November the Scottish Government published a Green paper on higher education which is currently out for consultation.  This came hot on the heels  of the Coalition Government’s decision to shift the cost of higher education in England from the state to the student by introducing tuition fees.  The Scottish Government ruled out an independent review so why have the Principals gone ahead and set up the Commission (to be chaired by former First Minister, Henry McLeish)?

Well, it seems that the Principals are seeking a more ‘holistic view’ of higher education which recognises that Scotland’s colleges offer a diverse range of vocational and academic courses and that the sector is pivotal to the lifelong learning and social inclusion agendas.  50% of Scottish school leavers go on to higher education but only 28% go to university  with the remainder studying at colleges.  With the further education sector also providing part time HE opportunities for more mature adults Principals are anxious to widen the debate beyond student funding. Why is the outcome of the Principals’ review of interest to further education librarians?  Well, precisely because college librarians have an important role in assisting learners to become independent in their studies.  They often work in environments where funding is constrained but where the range of learners for whom they provide support can vary from basic skills to the first and second year of degree courses. College library staff will be found helping learners with a range of abilities and information needs to improve their information handling skills and working with academic staff to contribute to attainment levels and enrich the learner experience of college.

SLIC has long argued that college library services are key strategic assets whose staff has a major contribution to make in supporting flexible, responsive learning and teaching programmes and in promoting learner engagement.  In order to do that, library services need to be adequately funded and staffed to support the range of learning that takes place there. Equally there is a lot of benefit to be had from the HE and FE library community working in partnership to improve the learner experience.

The SLIC FE Library survey will be published shortly.

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