Merged colleges consign the great names to history

Regional set-up leaves influential Scots behind and looks to geography

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Today marks a new dawn for further education in Scotland, with months of talks having paved the way for the opening of four new colleges.

But as the sector welcomes Ayrshire College, Fife College, Glasgow Clyde College and West College Scotland - the products of mergers to help streamline FE provision - concerns have been raised that the sector is jettisoning its links to some great figures of Scottish history.

Adam Smith, James Watt, Carnegie and Reid Kerr colleges have all been subsumed in the new merged institutions.

The merger to form Edinburgh College has already led to the disappearance of the names Telford and Stevenson from the college landscape, and further changes are afoot when more colleges merge in November, although some institutions plan to keep the old names for individual campuses or buildings.

In almost all cases, the newly emerging colleges will be named after their location - from West College Scotland to Fife College and the yet to be formed North East Scotland College and New College Lanarkshire. Only the merger of North Glasgow, Stow and John Wheatley may slightly buck the trend, with boards agreeing to put forward Glasgow Kelvin College as the new name - which offers a nod to the scientist Lord Kelvin.

This is despite the fact that education secretary Michael Russell favoured naming new institutions after influential Scots. A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said Mr Russell was keen to consider "name proposals put forward that pay tribute to our successful countrymen and women". He had encouraged colleges to "think creatively and constructively about their names and how commemorating significant educational figures and local historical events could be reflected".

The college landscape in Scotland could have looked very different. All new college titles were the result of a consultation process and at an earlier stage the names of influential Scots found their way into the suggestions. In Glasgow, the EIS teacher union led a campaign to name the new college in the north and east of the city after Mary Barbour, the city's first female councillor.

Some suggestions were more colourful. John Burt, principal of Angus College, which in November will merge with Dundee College to form Dundee and Angus College - to be known as the Damp;A - told TESS that his favourite suggestion had been ACDC College.

In Glasgow, the new college in the northeast could have ended up being called "G-Col - the Glasgow College", perhaps more likely to evoke images of bathroom cleaning products or healthy vegetable spreads.

Among the earlier suggestions for that merger was Phoenix College, while Supercounty College was proposed for New College Lanarkshire.

Glasgow Clyde College students and staff also had a narrow escape - with Saltire College, Virtuosity College and Green Hollow College among the proposed names.


The historic names disappearing from college titles as part of the regionalisation process:

Lt Col J Reid Kerr - a former chairman of Renfrew Education Committee.

Thomas Telford - a Scottish civil engineer, architect and stonemason.

Robert Stevenson - engineer who constructed the Bell Rock Lighthouse. Also grandfather of author Robert Louis Stevenson.

James Watt - renowned Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer.

Andrew Carnegie - industrialist who led the expansion of the American steel industry.

Adam Smith - Scottish moral philosopher and pioneer of political economy and one of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment.

John Wheatley - a socialist politician who campaigned against the UK's involvement in the First World War; also assisted in organising rent strikes in Glasgow.

David Stow - educationalist who founded an infant school and influenced teacher training.

Photo credit: Getty

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