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Two-way split for Northern College

Scotland's last stand-alone teacher training centre is set to disappear as the board of Northern College holds a crunch meeting today (Friday) to decide whether to vote itself out of existence, Neil Munro writes.

James Graham, Grampian's former education director who chairs the college board, declined to comment in advance of the meeting. But he told The TES Scotland in March: "We cannot continue as we are."

It is now understood that the board will be asked to endorse a management plan to split the two campuses in Aberdeen and Dundee, which have 690 and 450 students respectively, and effectively merge them with Aberdeen and Dundee Universities.

The college is under-occupied on both sites and has been under pressure from the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council for some time to consolidate its "estate" in order to raise capital. Its Pounds 7 million grant from the Scottish Office was cut by 6 per cent this year, the largest reduction suffered by any of the 21 SHEFC-funded institutions.

Northern was also hammered last year in the research rating exercise which, on a scale of one to five, gave the college a one, almost bottom of the UK league table. A rating of one means no research support.

Although financial uncertainty is clearly one issue, the college appears to have bowed to the practical difficulties of maintaining a small institution in two cities 80 miles apart. This will come as an unpleasant blow to David Adams, the Northern College principal, who has championed the value of monotechnics in the past. But he will be able to point to the fact that teacher training is at least being retained in Aberdeen and Dundee.

The shake-up is almost certain to receive the blessing of the SHEFC and the Secretary of State. It will bring to an end a process of rationalising teacher training begun under the previous Labour government in 1977. Since then colleges have closed and Jordanhill, Moray House, St Andrews and Craigie have thrown their lot in with universities or are about to do so.

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