Colleges are facing an unprecedented level of interference from the Scottish Government, a former education minister has claimed.
Scottish Labour's Hugh Henry accused the SNP administration of a "power grab" as he hit out at the "shotgun marriage" mergers of some colleges.
Mr Henry, education minister in the previous Scottish Executive, challenged Education Secretary Mike Russell on the issue at Holyrood.
Labour has "genuine concerns about the power grab by ministers which we see particularly in relation to further education", he told Mr Russell.
The Scottish Government "forced through shotgun marriages", alleged Mr Henry. "They have introduced an unprecedented level of ministerial control and interference in our colleges. New chairs and boards will be appointed by ministers and can be removed by ministers."
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith demanded to know what evidence there was to "suggest the reforms that are already being made by colleges and universities themselves are in someway insufficient and requiring Scottish Government direction".
The attack came as Mr Russell updated Holyrood on reforms to post-16 education, which include merging colleges across Scotland. He told MSPs he wants to see one college in each region, although governance arrangements would allow some regions to have more than one, where it was most appropriate for students.
Each region will have one governing body and new boards would be appointed once the colleges are re-formed, Mr Russell said.
In the meantime, key figures from the education sector have been asked to lead regional planning in each part of the country, including former First Minister Henry McLeish who will oversee changes in Glasgow.
The reforms represent "an unprecedented level of change" for the sector but it is change being implemented by the colleges themselves, Mr Russell said.
"College regionalisation lies at the heart of our reforms. Change of this nature and of this scale is inevitably complex and challenging. But I congratulate college leaders in every part of the sector: chairs, boards, principals, lecturers, support staff, students, unions and others. They have recognised the opportunities and applied their expertise and influence."
An advisory board will be created for the university sector and the committee of Scottish Chairs of Higher Education Institutions will lead work to develop a code of good governance, Mr Russell also announced.
Meanwhile, according to new figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Authority, 90.4% of graduates from Scottish institutions either found work or furthered their study in 2010-11. Mr Russell said: "We already have the highest level of graduates finding work or staying in education than in any other part of the UK, and of course higher education remains free to Scottish-domiciled students in Scotland.
"Strong progress has been made and the Scottish Government will continue to support our universities, colleges and training providers to deliver for our school leavers and graduates to ensure our young people have the skills, experience and ambition to support Scotland's economic growth."
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