The move has been triggered by two factors, the most significant being the loss of confidence in a national research agency by the Scottish Executive. Sam Galbraith, the former education minister, shocked the 70-year-old research council last year by announcing that he was removing its core grant of pound;338,000, a third of its total income, by 2003. The decision drew howls of protest.
The Executive said it wanted to encourage a number of institutions to become more deeply involved in research, rather than giving preferential status to a single body. Restructuring has been cushioned by a pound;400,000 grant that will see the council through safely to next year.
The second factor is the ending of the lease at Edinburgh University's education faculty in Moray House. Accommodation pressures have increased following the decision to assimilate the physical education, recreation and leisure departments into the faculty's city centre base.
The university has served notice to quit Moray House by next March after extending the lease by a year. It is now likely the council and its 23 staff could relocate temporarily in the capital while further detailed talks take place with Glasgow University.
Dr Valerie Wilson, the SCRE's director, said the key benefit from a merger was scale. "You need a larger research team to bid for bigger projects and the days of independent researchers and small teams are over," she said.
It is believed the research council could retain its identity within the larger education faculty at Glasgow, now home to St Andrew's College, the only Roman Catholic teacher training base in Scotland.
The university would benefit by raising the status of its research base. It is doubtful, however, if it would want the whole SCRE operation.