Threat to funding as Northern fails to name a partner

In the north-east, the political divide between Aberdeen and Dundee has ensured there is no obvious bidder for the hand of Northern College. Five universities - Aberdeen, Robert Gordon's, Dundee, Abertay and St Andrews - are said to share a predatory interest.

The Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, which now issues individual college intakes and carries out the Government's strong-arm duties, is forcing a conclusion and has asked for a report by June on the college's surplus accommodation and how it uses its twin campuses.

Northern did not do itself any favours by coming close to the bottom of the research league in the recent national assessments and losing Pounds 250, 000 as a consequence.

Robert Gordon's has established links with the college but no single university is poised to take over. A change of government, a Scottish Assembly and the Dearing inquiry may yet determine the outcome.

The soft target is the Dundee base as there is no secondary teaching on campus. However, Jimmy Graham, chairman of the college's board of governors, admits it would be difficult to pull out. The board has equal representation from both cities.

"As a former director of education (in Grampian), I know that if you do not have a local training provider it is far more difficult to recruit. You get a better choice when students are trained in your area," he declares.

There are strong arguments for retaining teacher education in the four cities but as uncertainty continues at Aberdeen and Dundee, others are set to steal a march.

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