Shotgun marriages between colleges keen to save funds were feared by many in the sector in the approach to regionalisation, but one college in Lanarkshire is cashing in on weddings of a more romantic kind.
Coatbridge College has set up 101 Park Street, an exclusive events venue on the college premises, which caters for corporate and private events as well as luxurious wedding parties of up to 130 people.
Special wedding packages, including a dedicated wedding planner, exclusive use of the venue, food, drinks and entertainment, start from #163;4,700 for a weekday wedding with 75 guests. The same wedding package costs #163;5,200 for weekends.
Launched in April, 101 Park Street was originally planned as a conference centre, but the college has "taken this to the next level", said principal John Doyle.
So far, 10 events with a range of between 20 and 150 attendees have been held at the venue, the college said, and bookings have been received for five weddings over the next year.
But some college staff have raised concerns that with college budgets under pressure, essential funding is being invested into 101 Park Street while jobs and courses at the college are at risk.
One staff member told TESS: "There seems to be no budget - it just seems to be open-ended. The original plans of a conference centre were fine, but then it just grew arms and legs.
"We are asking for cover, for more hours for part-time staff, and they are telling us there is no money for it. We are doubling up classes, part-time staff are losing their jobs, and for this project, it is what they want, they get."
As it was unclear whether or how students would be involved at the venue, there was a growing feeling of frustration among staff and students, especially when funding is so tight, the staff member said.
A spokesman for the EIS, which represents college lecturers, said the union was "aware of staff concerns regarding this new venture from Coatbridge College and the lack of any educational rationale or benefit to learners in the college".
The union said it would be interested to hear the college's response to the concerns - "particularly those relating to the level of financial investment in the venue at a time of restraint in learning and teaching budgets", the spokesman added.
But Mr Doyle said that the venue did not divert funds from teaching or staff and would help to secure the long-term future of the college in a time of tighter budgets.
"101 Park Street was funded from income generated from our commercial activity strategy, which is a key element of our future sustainability on the back of the Scottish Funding Council cuts," Mr Doyle said.
"The events that are run will cover the whole range that is possible in a community. Many other colleges have gone down this route in the past, although I do think we've taken this to the next level."
WELL, AISLE BE ...
What 101 Park Street offers, according to its website:
- "Its contemporary and modern design is infused with traditional style to enhance the relaxed and compelling atmosphere."
- Set "alongside Dunbeth Park in the landscape of North Lanarkshire".
- Access to hair and beauty salons on site.
- A range of food and drinks packages to suit individual requirements.
- Couples can also have their ceremony at 101 Park Street for an extra charge of #163;250.