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All aboard in Glasgow

Glasgow's four city centre colleges have bowed to the inevitable and agreed to come together. But, rather than combining on a single site, it will be a "four-college, two-campus solution", which will preserve the identities of each.

Agreement on the long-awaited pound;200 million project, announced this week, will lead to "the most ambitious further education project ever seen in the UK, let alone Scotland", Roger McClure, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, says.

The council has been vigorously promoting the idea of what it described at one time as an "education village" incorporating further and higher education in the heart of Glasgow.

Now, it is calling the integrated campus "a joined-up learning zone", which will involve Stow, Central, Nautical and Metropolitan colleges and is due to be completed in 2012.

The plan was initially greeted with varying degrees of scepticism by the colleges and, in the case of Stow which wanted its own new site in Glasgow's Pacific Quay, outright opposition.

But, following intense discussions, which involved Glasgow City Council and Scottish Enterprise Glasgow as well as the colleges and the funding council, the various managements now all appear to be on board.

John McClelland, chairman of the funding council, praised their foresight.

A joint statement issued by the four principals - Bob McGrory of Stow, Peter Duncan of Central, Janet Okten of Nautical and Tom Wilson of Metropolitan - said: "We are delighted to commit our support to this vision for further education in Glasgow.

"The plans for a co-located estates solution which offers scope for both the maintenance and development of our separate traditions and identities, matched with state-of-the-art facilities, are welcome and challenging."

The principals acknowledged the "considerable time and energy" spent on ensuring public money allocated to the project was a sound investment. The statement implied there was full support at all levels for the combined college which it called "the most exciting development in education and training in Glasgow and, indeed, Scotland for generations".

The Further Education Lecturers' Association has welcomed a pledge of no compulsory redundancies, but is keeping its counsel until it finds out more details of what has been agreed.

The funding council was pressing hard for "the Cathedral Street solution"

before releasing the capital required to improve the colleges' estates. Mr McClelland said he was pleased the funders had played such a "creative role".

But it may have been high-profile political intervention that finally settled the issue, particularly from Steven Purcell, leader of Glasgow City Council, and Willie Haughey, the well-connected businessman who chairs Scottish Enterprise Glasgow.

This was evident from Mr Haughey's comment that "these colleges have a vital contribution to raising knowledge and skills levels in the Glasgow economy. At the same time, this imaginative strategy will play its part in the regeneration of the city centre.

"On both counts, we warmly welcome this initiative."

The complex deal envisages replacements for Central and Metropolitan colleges on Cathedral Street and a new international centre of excellence for maritime studies located on nearby Thistle Street.

Stow's activities will be split, with its engineering programmes transferring to the Nautical College site on Thistle Street and the rest of its provision decamping to Cathedral Street.

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