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Shotgun wedding for Northern

The days are numbered for the autonomy of Northern College of Education. Governors now accept that continuing pressures dictate a partner among the universities. A report which they must submit to the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council by the summer is focusing their attention.

James Graham, chairman of the board and a former director of education in Grampian, told The TES Scotland: "We cannot continue as we are." Discussions have taken place with John Sizer, the council's chief executive.

One obstacle to amalgamation was the attitude of David Adams, the college's long-serving principal, who was responsible for implementing the union of the former Aberdeen and Dundee colleges which make up Northern. Mr Adams has told colleagues he has abandoned his opposition.

The principal was due to address staff at both campuses as we went to press. Graham Williamson, Dundee secretary of the University Lecturers' Association, an affiliate of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said there was "a great deal of anxiety". Lecturers were "learning about their future from newspapers. They feel under-informed, left in the dark by management."

Mr Williamson said that savings had been made in recent years by cutting staff numbers. The change in superannuation regulations, that will place the cost of early retirements on employers, was likely to close this option.

The college, which has 690 students in Aberdeen and 450 in Dundee, is under pressure from the funding council to dispose of surplus property to raise capital. With continuing restrictions on student teacher intake, the college will lose 6.1 per cent of its funding next year.

There is widespread criticism of the management's handling of the recent research assessment exercise for universities and colleges. Northern claimed that a large majority of staff were active researchers, but it received the lowest rating and no money.

The four universities in Aberdeen and Dundee are all potential partners, but none is likely to show its hand while the future of the twin campuses remains in doubt. The Scottish Office would have to agree if teacher training was to be withdrawn from either city.

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