Merger plans get more complex

Late call for four city-centre colleges to become a `super college' on a `super campus' causes confusion. Neil Munro reports

Central College in Glasgow has thrown a spanner in the works of the pound;300 million plans to bring the four city-centre colleges together on one site.

Instead of the four keeping their own identities, the college's board of management has decided to call for them to merge in a "super college" on the "super campus".

This has added further confusion to an already murky picture. Two of the colleges, Glasgow Metropolitan and Stow, are at an advanced stage in their merger plans, and are busy consulting staff. A key ingredient is that the Stow name would be preserved.

A senior spokesperson at Stow said: "As we have only just received notice of Central College's latest merger proposal, neither the principal nor board chair have had the opportunity to discuss it with either the senior management team or board of management respectively.

"However, the college can confirm that its own plans for merger with Glasgow Metropolitan College will proceed as previously announced, believing as stated in the merger consultation document, that this merger is best for the current students and future learners of both colleges, as well as giving the staff the opportunity to work and teach in a modern, forward-looking and competitive institution."

But Central has won the endorsement of John McClelland, chair of the Scottish Funding Council. He welcomed the move to a "single college concept" and said it was "consistent with the vision" of the council. He suggested the idea has the backing of the three other colleges, though the Stow statement implies otherwise.

Paul Little, principal of Central College, welcomed "the clarity of this strategic direction". His board has contacted Mr McClelland, asking him to convene a meeting of the four colleges to move things forward. He believes Central's proposal for a "fusion approach" is better than "the uncertain and protracted process of multiple mergers".

Talks have taken place with a bewildering combination of partners over the past few years. Under its former principal, Central College was a reluctant suitor in the beginning and decided to opt out of the super- campus plans.

The fourth of the city centre colleges involved, Glasgow College of Nautical Studies, has also proved hard to get. Separate merger talks with Glasgow Metropolitan and Stow collapsed in rapid succession.

Discussions between the Met and Stow have dragged on past the April 30 deadline, set by the Stow board.

The campus will be home to 2,000 staff and 50,000 students in an "education village", including neighbouring Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian universities.

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