THE AMALGAMATION last week of St Andrew's College with Glasgow University marks in one sense only another stage in the absorption of "monotech" institutions within universities. In teacher education, Jordanhill, Craigie and Moray House have trodden the path. Now only the terms under which Northern College splits in two and finds new partners in Aberdeen and Dundee remain an issue. But the St Andrew's merger is special because it marks the end of separate Catholic teacher training, which little more than a decade ago was offered in both Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Bringing together different traditions, cultures and conditions of service is unsettling, but the principal concern for the universities lies in the lack of research strength in the colleges. Teachers in schools may not regret the absence of academic paper-writing, for they believe that teacher training should if anything be more practical and less theoretical. But good universities are distinguished from also-rans by their research funding, and one of the reasons Glasgow rejected a merger with Jordanhill was its lack of research. Under the wing of Strathclyde University, that has changed, and research strengths are also being cultivated at Moray House, though in neither case are these likely to yield spectacular funding benefits for some time yet.
The St Andrew's merger poses the unique problem of promoting denominational education within a secular university. Catholic universities of high repute exist on the Continent and in North America, but Glasgow faces a different challenge requiring sensitivity as well as the safeguards built into its new constitution. There will be no role for Catholic reactionaries or Orangemen in academic dress, but Glaswegians being Glaswegian slights and sleights of hand will be eagerly pursued.