Edinburgh University and Moray House Institute are set to spark an east-west, north-south battle by bidding to become the country's leading base for teacher training and educational research under recently announced merger plans. The plan is to establish an Institute of Education for Scotland and emulate the highly regarded institute at London University.
Commenting on the merger with Moray House, Sir Stewart Sutherland, principal of Edinburgh University, said the combined standing of both institutions in research and teaching had drawn them together and encouraged "a vision for education in Edinburgh and Scotland".
Sir Stewart, chairman of the United Kingdom inquiry into teacher training being carried out as part of the Dearing investigation into higher education says it is an "entirely logical development" to bring Moray House "within what many regard as Scotland's flagship university . . . It is noteworthy that Moray House's achievements in the recent research assessment exercise were the best of those for any of the Scottish colleges."
The institute has made strenuous efforts to bolster its research capacity by capturing prominent figures such as Pamela Munn and Lindsay Paterson. But the budget squeeze on higher education, the decline in the number of student teachers and the Government's preference for larger, all-embracing institutions are known to be key factors behind the proposed merger and that of other teacher training institutions.
Moray House last October ditched its troubled relationship with Heriot-Watt University in favour of a link with its geographically closer neighbour. The most important factor, according to Professor Gordon Kirk, the institute's principal, was "the realisation that the academic well-being of Moray House might be at risk if we continued as an independent institution".
Jordanhill College set the precedent for merger by integrating with Strathclyde University to form an education faculty. Craigie in Ayr opted for full submersion into Paisley University. St Andrew's College, Bearsden, bastion of Roman Catholic education, is now cementing its relationship with Glasgow University. It wants to become a more diversified institute of education within the university, yet still protect its denominational base.
Bart McGettrick, the college's principal, says the Scottish Office has allowed colleges to work out their own solutions. He maintains: "There is not a blueprint or ideology driving change in teacher education. It is dependent on individuals and how they see the future."