The fusion of further and higher education, which is being given impetus in the north of the Scotland by the drive to establish a university in the Highlands and Islands, is advancing rapidly in the south-west.
David Rose, principal of Barony College in Dumfries, revealed on Saturday that his college, which specialises in land-based studies, is set to become an associate college of the Scottish Agricultural College, a higher education institution whose degrees are awarded by Glasgow University.
Glasgow, in turn, plans to open a liberal arts college in buildings on the Crichton Estate in Dumfries offering general Ordinary degrees to around 100 students from October next year, building to 400 by 2000. The university envisages the college as a university in its own right within 15 years.
Dumfries and Galloway College, meanwhile, is continuing to build on its established HE links, with four new Paisley University degrees and one from Napier University on schedule, in addition to five existing Paisley degrees. The college plans to base some of its HE students on the Crichton site next session.
Ian Smith, chief executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council, hopes for economic as well as educational gains from the project. During Saturday's annual conference of the university action group, he told The TESS that while the Glasgow link would open up the liberal arts to students in the south-west who are not well served by HE, Paisley's stronger vocational base would move forward in parallel "so that we end up with an integrated higher education structure".
Overall, however, the Crichton project, which includes business and other non-educational developments as well, still faces significant financial hurdles following the rejection of a Pounds 13 million bid to the Millennium Commission.