Highlands group HE expansion approved
Michael Forsyth told the Grand Committee in Inverness that "as an important step" towards realising the economic benefits which would flow from a university in the Highlands he was prepared to agree to an expansion in the number of students next session.
At present there are about 2,700 on higher level courses. In the recent past, colleges and polytechnics have successfully applied for university status when they could show 4,000 students on a wide range of courses.
Mr Forsyth claimed that some decrease in overall demand for higher education courses in FE colleges allowed expansion in the Highlands and Islands colleges without any need to change the overall policy of "capping" higher education courses.
The Association of Scottish Colleges is sceptical about claims of decreased demand. Tom Kelly, its new chief officer, who until last week was in charge of higher education at the Scottish Office, said that college principals believed that there was "unsatisfied demand" because of the cap. "The supply had been choked off."
The ASC was pleased that the case for removing the cap had been conceded for some colleges, although a general relaxation would have been more welcome.