UCU demands college spending probe by the public accounts committee

The University and College Union (UCU) has called for a parliamentary investigation into college spending.

The call follows UCU claims that Warwickshire College had paid more than half a million pounds to the Gazelle Colleges Group and had raised its principal’s pay by £50,000 in two years while almost 100 staff face redundancy due to budget cuts.

We would urge the Public Accounts Committee to properly investigate how taxpayers’ money is being spent by our colleges.”

UCU regional official, Anne O’Sullivan, said: “The time has come for proper scrutiny of colleges’ spending. We would urge the Public Accounts Committee to properly investigate how taxpayers’ money is being spent by our colleges.”

The claims follow freedom of information (FOI) requests which UCU submitted to the college, which also revealed pay raises and bonuses for senior managers and an FE Week investigation which discovered the college had paid Gazelle more than £530,000, including £324,000 for “new education concepts”.

Warwickshire College principal Mariane Cavalli has taken a “temporary leave of absence” and has been replaced on an iterim basis by chair of governors Sue Georgious.

Ms O’Sullivan said: “Almost 100 members of staff at the college might lose their jobs, pay has been driven down in recent years and yet we are starting to uncover details of massive pay rises for a principal now on leave and for other senior managers.

“The college needs to open its books up and explain why such large sums were given to the Gazelle group of colleges and what new education concepts are and why they cost £324,000.

“We also need to know what has been spent on overseas travel and expenses, why senior managers got such big pay rises and who is getting a bonus on top of their salary and why.”

UCU said its FOI had revealed that real-terms staff pay had fallen by 16 per cent in the last five years, while an unnamed manager had received a £15,000 bonus.

In May, Ms Cavalli said a shortfall in funding of £3m made job losses at the college seem ‘inevitable’ and June 19 the college announced that up to 99 jobs were at risk of redundancy.

Warwickshire College declined to comment.


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    • Lesley K

      This is just the tip of the iceberg!
      Principal’s pay rises, capital projects involving tax evading companies and employees not even receiving a living wage. Go UCU!

  1. As a lecturer in a college in the exact same position; Principle and VP taking an 11% pay rise despite increasing debt and falling success in some areas alongside another year of 0.7% percent pay rise denied for staff. Thousands spent on Gazelle and training for concepts such as the ‘flipped curriculum’…setting work/reading to prepare for an upcoming topic, WOW, revolutionary…wait, what? When you add in trips to Boston and elsewhere and NOW front-line redundancies; I have to wonder when ours will be investigated. It is time the incompetence of the upper management are held accountable for the public funds they fritter away and the scores of students futures they have jeopardized by protecting the profuse number of upper management positions and reducing tutorial provision, lecturing staff and student support. The Governors’ have allowed this to happen and one can’t help but wonder why…

      • Good point, P. Dent. I’m sure Gazelle will sort out these problems for us. Let’s look at their Annual Return dated 26/07/2013. Three of the Company Directors list their occupation as PRINCIPAL, and the other two as PRINCIPLE.

        As for apostrophes, I have been sorely tempted to ask our IT Department to investigate why the apostrophe key does not appear to be functioning on our senior managers’ keyboards!

        • Richard Le Corney

          And apologies for the unintended abbreviation of my name. I forgot that, when the system displays your name after the first couple of characters, it does not mean it will actually use it unless you tell it to.

      • Richard Le Corney

        Good point, P. Dent. I’m sure Gazelle will sort these problems out. Let’s look at their Annual Return dated 26/07/2013. Three of the Company Directors list their occupation as PRINCIPAL, and the other two as PRINCIPLE, including the one who’s had her pay increased “by £50,000 in two years”.

        And I’ve been sorely tempted to ask our IT Department to investigate why the apostrophe key appears not to function on some of our senior managers’ keyboards!

  2. I must say that as I learn more about the quality of the quality of learning produced and financial competence of many of our FE Colleges, I believe they are part of a huge problem in this country. The truth is that the quality of many lecturers/instructors currently engaged are not fit for purpose and consequently turn our young people unfit for employment. No wonder the government is moving funding to the employers. Huge challenge for FE organisations that have seen money fall out of the sky for the last few years!!

    • Richard Le Corney

      Keith Simpson must be living under a different sky from the rest of us in FE! Please distinguish between the performance of the management team and the performance of the teaching team. Not only have teachers seen their pay fall in real terms because colleges “cannot afford” the meagre national pay rises agreed with AoC while they can afford sizeable pay rises and bonuses for senior managers, but they have had to struggle with a continual erosion of the resources needed to support their teaching. I work in a Gazelle college which has run out of A4 printer paper twice this year and which struggles to repair IT faults.

    • Adrian S

      Given that this article makes no comment on the quality of learning or the quality of the instructors, and in fact questions the competency and trustworthiness of the management, I wonder about the reason for your comment here?
      As for money falling out of the sky, I’ve been in FE for 12 years now, and it certainly hasn’t been falling anywhere near me or my department…

  3. I have worked in education FE & HE for many years and have never known such a demoralising time for lecturers and students. Dedicated lecturers with high skills are being managed by what amounts to ‘second hand car sales’ management, who put their own pet projects ahead of the needs of those being educated. lecturer pay is driven down, whilst management award themselves huge pay rises and bonuses, no austerity for them (an appalling example to set) . This is a scandal and now Warwickshire College is millions in the red, but still carrying out huge building and redevelopment programs, whilst at the same time conducting 100 job losses, many which will be lecturing staff. Something is wrong somewhere morally and ethically.

    • Orange Bob

      Do you not understand the difference between revenue and capital expenditure? Building investments are just that, investments, which are proven to attract more students and hence, ultimately, income.

  4. Philip Briggs

    This was a pay award by the board; they decide on merit, the CEO does not demand.

    The board approves expenses, senior appointments, strategy decisions and the associated expenditure and investment in the college, joint ventures and other business opportunities; they have the corporate responsibility. These are all papers in the public domain.

    Shame on the UCU for putting so much energy into attacking one person, who has dedicated their life to education, rather than the Government that is doing so much to destroy the sector and those who love it.

    • Richard Le Corney

      Whoever made the decision about raising the principal’s pay, that £50,000 pa could have been used to save two teachers’ jobs. Which use of that money would have been of more benefit to students’ education? A stark reminder of the priorities of those running our FE system.

      • Orange Bob

        Why on earth do you believe that there is a connection between the number of teachers and effective learning? This is exactly the sort of simplistic, self-serving thinking that is endemic to FE and so many of those that work – often in the loosest sense of the word – in the sector.

  5. Richard Le Corney

    What a coincidence! I work for a different Gazelle college, and our funding shortfall is also close to £3m. Would it be possible, I wonder, to compare funding shortfalls in Gazelle colleges with those who have been spared this drain on their resources?

    • Orange Bob

      Err, have you heard of the funding cut-backs in colleges? Most colleges are under the cosh financially. Thank heavens there are some enlightened souls like Cavalli, looking to develop new sources of income. But FE doesn’t like change, of any sort. So depressing.

  6. By coincidence, I work in a Gazelle college with 200 threatened redundancies and courses being cut left right and centre and guess what? our shortfall is…Moreover, the mantra is the same: government cuts blah blah blah!

    The FE Commissioner doesn’t seem to have noticed these problems in colleges with Ofsted grades above 3!

    Warwickshire defenders may be small, slender antelopes that typically has curved horns and a fawn-coloured coat with white underparts, found in open country in Africa and Asia rather than those of us under threat!