More cash for UHI, but more scrutiny

A further Pounds 3.6 million has been earmarked for the colleges and institutions involved in the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, made the announcement on Tuesday when he conducted a video-conferencing discussion in Inverness with three of the colleges. The cash is in addition to Pounds 15.9 million released by the previous government to be spent over four years and Pounds 33 million awarded by the Millennium Commission.

But while showing no signs of any weakening in Labour's commitment to a Highland university, Mr Wilson hinted strongly that there would be a more rigorous evaluation. "I intend to satisfy myself that the financial and educational assumptions which underlie the project are going to deliver the best possible outcome in terms of quality and educational experience for the potential students," he said.

The additional cash is tied to specific requirements. The largest sum of Pounds 1.5 million represents the first stage of investment on information and communications technology. Just over Pounds 1 million will be spent on developing the curriculum, the academic infrastructure and standards, and on the executive office. Another Pounds 1 million will go directly to the eight colleges for developing their HE work.

Mr Wilson stressed that this is "new money" which has not been taken from the further and higher education pot.

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