Napier University significantly increased its presence in further education this week by signing an agreement with Borders College to establish across-the-board links.
Bob Murray, acting principal at Borders, and Professor John Mavor, the Napier principal, both denied that this was a first step towards full association or merger. The college is not thought to be in financial difficulty. It has below average unit costs and was one of the main beneficiaries of this year's Scottish Office grant settlement.
Napier has now established links with seven FE colleges, the others being Dumfries and Galloway, Lauder, Aberdeen, Edinburgh's Telford, Jewel and Esk Valley and West Lothian. But while these are tied to particular degrees, the Borders connection will allow students from a range of HNC and HND courses to progress to degree courses at Napier.
The agreement, which will also include staff exchanges and allow Napier students to study in the Borders, will not be exclusive, Patricia Peattie, Napier's assistant principal, told The TES Scotland at a special signing ceremony in Galashiels on Monday. "This does not stop Borders College from having links with anyone else, which is of importance if we believe in choice and options for students. We would like to think that our connection will make Napier attractive to students from the Borders but we cannot constrain them. The link remains live for as long as it remains valuable."
Iain Ferguson, a senior manager at Borders College, said it was hoped the prospect of being able to study for a degree in the area would prove attractive to mature students in particular, many of whom find it impossible to travel to Edinburgh. Half of the college's students are adult returners and half of those are women.