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Russell gives go-ahead to Glasgow merger plan

The Education Secretary has approved the merger of the three Glasgow city centre colleges but, as forecast in last week's TESS, he has ordered a "sharp reduction" in the pound;300 million redevelopment costs.

Michael Russell's go-ahead means that, on Wednesday, Glasgow's Metropolitan, Central and Nautical colleges officially became the City of Glasgow College. This cuts the number of further education institutions in Scotland from 43 to 41; it is the first merger involving three colleges since incorporation in 1993.

As well as setting conditions on reducing the cost of the new campus, Mr Russell has asked the board of the new college to make "meaningful and early progress" on matters such as job security and harmonisation of pay and conditions. The failure to reach agreement on these issues was among the factors behind the plea from the Educational Institute of Scotland to delay approval of the merger.

But ministers said the educational benefits for students were key to their consent. Keith Brown, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, said: "While these issues are important and must be resolved in a timely and productive manner, they do not justify denying students the significant benefits this merger will bring.

"The City of Glasgow College will be a significant economic boost to the city and will provide an outstanding learning experience for both students and staff".

The Government also wants to see "a positive approach to future partnerships with other colleges, including Stow". It pulled out of the merger talks, arguing that there was "no compelling case" for it.

The approval was welcomed by those who had backed it - the Scottish Funding Council, Scotland's Colleges and new principal Paul Little, who said he looked forward to "hitting the ground running".

The EIS said it was disappointed its concerns had not been addressed before the merger but glad the new board of management would be required to make progress in the areas of dispute with the unions.

The Scottish Labour Party said there was now no funding commitment to redevelop the college estate.

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