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Dundee site may go in Northern break-up

The earliest date by which the two campuses of Northern College could merge with Aberdeen and Dundee universities is September 1999, James Graham, chairman of the college's board of governors, said this week.

As forecast in last week's TES Scotland, the board decided on the move after bowing to financial pressures which have made stand-alone teacher training institutions unsustainable. The Dearing and Sutherland reports also delivered a strong signal that monotechnics have had their day.

Mr Graham acknowledged that staff and students would be concerned but pledged: "There will be no disruption to any student's education." Protecting the interests of staff would be a paramount consideration as the college board enters negotiations with the two universities.

Graham Williamson, branch secretary of the University Lecturers' Association at Northern College, which represents most of the 125 academic staff, said the reaction was one of "resigned relief" after months of rumour and uncertainty. But merger talks would have to be handled with "a great deal of delicacy and tact", Mr Williamson said, particularly in the allocation of courses.

The choice of Aberdeen and Dundee as the preferred homes for the college, on the recommendation of David Adams, the principal, has not met with significant resistance. Mr Adams argued that Northern had strong links with the universities because they were the source of most students.

The major surprise in the announcement was the proposed "disposal" of the whole of the Dundee campus. Mr Williamson said he was strongly opposed to "the way in which this was presented as a prime consideration rather than one of many financial and property issues which have to be discussed".

The future of the Dundee site is of wider significance becauseit is the headquarters of the Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum and home to a number of Dundee City Council departments, including theeducational development service. It also houses more exotic operations such as the potato-labelling service of the Department of Agriculture.

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