College trio embark on merger project

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Three colleges are involved in a strategic project that seeks to bring together Lews Castle College UHI, North Highland College UHI and West Highland College UHI to form a new college within the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership by January 2023.

In order to progress with the plan, a Merger Partnership Board has been formed to achieve the vision and aims of all three colleges and to steer the process.

The board consists of the principals and board chairpersons of the three organisations, together with staff and student representatives from the three college boards and members of the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association.

The board will develop a proposal which would inform the final decision of each of the college boards involved. Dr Michael Foxley, who served as the University of the Highlands and Islands regional lead for Further Education between 2014-2021 will chair the board.

A joint statement from the college principals said: ‘We believe this is a unique opportunity to develop a new college of scale and impact that serves and supports around 9000 students in 20 remote rural and island campus locations across the Highlands, Skye and the Western Isles.

‘We will bring together and build on existing excellence and expertise within our three
organisations in order to drive a step change for education from school to university as well as in research, enterprise and innovation in our region.

‘Whilst there is a huge amount of work to be done over the next few months to explore with our key staff, students and stakeholders whether this can be successfully achieved, we agree that this is the absolute best option for our colleges.

‘We believe we can better serve our students and our communities by providing a wider range of study options for our students and strengthened career pathways and job satisfaction for our staff.

‘We will also be able to unlock new opportunities for future strategic development and
investment through ambitious collaborations and projects that, as single small colleges, we are unable to achieve.’

A merger co-ordinator who will work across all three colleges to support the Merger Partnership Board, associated workstreams and the full consultation process will be appointed in the next few weeks.