PAISLEY UNIVERSITY and Hamil-ton's Bell College have officially merged to create one of Scotland's largest universities.
This week's pound;21 million merger results in a regional university with 18,000 students over a wide geographical area, including campuses in Ayr, Dumfries, Hamilton and Paisley. It also has the country's largest school of health, nursing and midwifery, with 5,000 students.
The university has planned an investment programme of more than pound;160 million, and one of its main aims is to attract people from backgrounds where going to university is uncommon. Its managers are enthusiastic about lifelong learning and will target people of all ages.
The merger creates Lanark-shire's first university with degree-awarding powers, which will lead to the extension of degree and postgraduate courses in Hamilton.
Seamus McDaid, principal and vice-chancellor of the new university, said: "The merger is great news, not just for both institutions, but for Scotland as a whole."
Alex MacLennan, vice-principal and former principal of Bell College, said: "Having a university presence in Lanarkshire is hugely important for the area, and the merged university will open up higher education opportunities for many more thousands of people across the west of Scotland."
Concerns have been raised, however, that competition from the new university may harm existing colleges in the west of Scotland. Some also question whether the new institution is sustainable, arguing that it has struggled to meet recruitment targets.
Others are against the new institution's proposed name the University of the West of Scotland because it has no mention of Paisley.