Colleges sign deal to create super campus

26 Mar 2009

Nine years of wrangling over the future of a £300m supercollege in Scotland's largest city came to an end yesterday with a historic agreement by three colleges to merge.

The principals of Central College, Metropolitan College and the College of Nautical Studies in Glasgow have signed an agreement to join forces to form one new college in a purpose-built campus in the city centre.

The proposals, which have been under discussion for nearly a decade without resolution, had hit a setback earlier this month when one of the key players pulled out.

Stow College in Glasgow withdrew from the project, blaming attempts to accelerate the merger of the four city centre colleges at the expense of pursuing the original plan for a co-location, where each college kept its own identity.

In a joint statement, the principals of the three remaining colleges - Paul Little from Central, Janet Otken from Nautical and Tom Wilson from Metropolitan - announced plans to press ahead with the merger.

"We are clear in our new shared mission - to deliver world-class learning for a local, regional, national and international market," the principals said.

"We share a vision to champion learning and develop centres of excellence and we will work with the community, with schools and universities and with industry and employers to create a legacy for learners, for Glasgow and for Scotland's future."

John McClelland, chair of the Scottish Funding Council, welcomed the move.

"The decision they have made to merge and create a new single college in the centre of Glasgow is the right one for the colleges, for Glasgow and for Scotland," he said.

"We support their vision for a modern teaching, learning and training environment in the heart of the city that will inspire learners and give businesses and communities new opportunities for prosperity."

Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, added: "This new world-class city college will ensure that Glasgow can continue to provide the right facilities to give students the skills which business needs."

However, Pauline McNeill, a Labour MSP whose constituency covers Glasgow city centre, sounded a note of caution.

"I share the view that we need to have a forward-thinking vision for further education in Glasgow, but any proposition will have to be looked at very closely by Scottish Government ministers to ensure that no student places or jobs are lost as a result."

The merger plan has been one of the longest-running sagas in Scottish education.

The original proposal was that the four colleges were to co-locate to a state-of-the-art campus in Cathedral Street and Thistle Street by 2012, with 50,000 students and 2000 staff.

The move was intended to prevent duplication of courses, save public money and provide modern facilities. However, little progress has been made in moving towards the co-location.

In May last year, the four colleges set up a company to deliver New Campus Glasgow, the biggest further education building project in Europe, but Stow then pulled out.

Stow officials said their decision to withdraw followed a meeting in February with Mark Batho, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, where he outlined a commitment to an "early four-way merger".

Bob McGrory, principal of Stow, warned that any attempt to speed up the process could lead to job cuts. He went on to question the affordability of the project and said the size of the proposed campus was not in the best interests of students, staff or the community.

A 2008 report by the Westminster-based Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills concluded that, while there may be benefits to a larger college size, these were not guaranteed and the impact of college mergers on choice and competition was "ambiguous".

Reproduced with the permission of the Herald & Times Group.

  • Aerial view of Riverside campus as existing