College merger consultation and website launched

The ambitious plans driving a proposed merger of three colleges within the University of Highlands and Islands have been set out in a detailed consultation document.

A strategic partnership bringing together Lews Castle College UHI, North Highland College UHI and West Highland College UHI to form a new institution by January 2023 is currently being explored.

The document titled Building a Better Future Together, has been shared with stakeholders and sets out the vision for the merger as well as providing details on how people can have their say on the plans. 

A dedicated website has also been launched: https://www.rural-islands-merger.uhi.ac.uk

In a joint statement, the three principals, Lydia Rohmer, Debbie Murray and Sue Macfarlane said: “Our ambitious plans will bring together our three organisations to form a new college based on a partnership of equals.

“We are confident this proposal is the best way forward to benefit our students, our staff, our partnerships and our communities,

“By building a better future together we can deliver on our ambition to support local, regional, national and international opportunities.”

The merger plans, which could involve 9,000 students and around 600 staff, follow a detailed options appraisal earlier this year.

The document sets out the ambition and guiding principles for the merger, and explains:

- Why merger is the right way forward for the three colleges and the communities and region they serve

- The impact on stakeholders, including businesses and local employers

- How feedback on the proposal can be given

The new college will remain within the university network which has 12 institutions across the Highlands and Islands.

A merger partnership board has been formed which consists of the principals and board chairs of the three colleges, along with staff and student representatives.

It is chaired by Dr Michael Foxley, who served as the university’s regional lead for Further Education between 2014-2021.

The principals’ statement continued: “Given the transformational change envisaged to deliver this proposed merger, we are fully committed to a transparent and inclusive consultation process.

“We want as many people as possible to get in touch and let us know their thoughts on the proposals.”

Last week it was confirmed the merger would not result in any direct job losses, the colleges would retain their local identities, and any savings identified would be reinvested to strengthen teams at all levels to enable innovation and leadership.