Ambitious plan for merger under way
Motherwell and Cumbernauld colleges plan to merge by early August this year, in an ambitious move that would create one of the biggest colleges in Scotland in less than seven months.
At the same time, the two FE institutions remain committed to working in federation with Lanarkshire's two other colleges, Coatbridge and South Lanarkshire, in pursuance of Lanarkshire's regional outcome agreement, said Hugh Logan, principal of Motherwell College.
The merger was a logical extension of the long-standing working relationship the two institutions had built, Mr Logan told TESS.
"Learners are at the centre of all we do and both organisations have a history of successful partnership working on a range of projects. We would anticipate that this will be further enhanced through the proposed merger," said Keith Fulton, chair of the board at Cumbernauld College.
The Lanarkshire federation was set up last year as part of the government's regionalisation agenda. Initially, it had been discussed as a three-way federation between South Lanarkshire, Motherwell and Cumbernauld colleges, before a four-college federation with Coatbridge was eventually agreed.
This followed a proposal by Coatbridge College for a four-way merger - an option rejected by the other three. "We never saw any value in the original merger proposal", Mr Logan said.
Unlike the proposed multi-college region of Glasgow, the FE landscape in Lanarkshire will not feature institutions of a similar size after the merger of Motherwell and Cumbernauld colleges. Instead, the merged college will be significantly larger than either Coatbridge or South Lanarkshire.
According to a statement by Motherwell and Cumbernauld, it would "provide almost two-thirds of the further education provision in Lanarkshire, delivering qualifications to over 20,000 learners".
How this would affect the work of the federation was "very difficult to predict", a sector expert told TESS, and posed a "real challenge to the regional lead and whoever becomes regional chair".
While neither South Lanarkshire nor Coatbridge was involved in initial merger talks and both were informed of the plans only last Friday, Mr Logan said that the door was not closed. "What will not happen is anything that will delay that process", he said.
But TESS understands that Coatbridge and South Lanarkshire have been given until today to decide whether to be part of the merger.
John Doyle, principal of Coatbridge College, said his board was to due to discuss the proposals on Wednesday, as TESS went to press.
Stewart McKillop, principal of South Lanarkshire, said he was "perfectly comfortable with the proposed merger between Motherwell and Cumbernauld colleges".