Stirling is to undergo a major expansion of further education, with a threefold increase in its provision and services from 2012.
It is part of a pound;50 million capital investment by Forth Valley College, the largest in FE outside the Glasgow city centre development. The spend will involve replacing its existing centres in new buildings in new locations in Alloa as well as Stirling. A new campus for the main part of the college, in Falkirk, is at the planning stage and is expected to be part of the next round of capital allocations in 2011.
Forth Valley College, formed from the merger of Falkirk and Clackmannanshire colleges, has emerged with top marks from the inspectorate for its teaching and management. It will grow from a college with around 20,000 students to one with 25,000. Stirling will have courses in hospitality, engineering and construction for the first time, which the college hopes will open up more partnerships with schools. It also aims to build on its base of business and commercial clients, which account for Pounds 1.5 million of the college's income.
Principal Linda McKay is careful to make it clear that Forth Valley's expansion will not be at the expense of other colleges. Its plans are to realign the college with the growing population in the area, attracting more part-time and adult learners.
But Mike Cantley, a Callendar businessman who chairs the college board, says there has to be competition. "If someone wants to study on the banks of the Forth, why should the system stand in the way? So yes, it is about being aggressive."
Another milestone in FE was reached this week when the pound;37 million redevelopment of Dumfries and Galloway College opened on the Crichton campus in Dumfries. It joins the universities of Glasgow and the West of Scotland, the Open University and the Scottish Agricultural College already on-site.