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Education / Merged college could launch in March next year

The NAFC Marine Centre in Scalloway, one of the colleges earmarked to merge into one organisation. Photo: Shetland NewsThe NAFC Marine Centre UHI. Photo: Shetland News

THE DATE which Shetland’s tertiary education sector is expected to merge has now been pushed back to March 2021.

A ministerial merger business case for bringing together Shetland College, NAFC Marine Centre and Train Shetland under the name Shetland Institute UHI will go in front of councillors on Thursday.

The initial expectation was that vesting of the new merged college, which will operate under the UHI network, would be achieved by August 2020.

A new date for vesting – or merging – has not formally been set, but it is expected to now be in March 2021. Councillors initially approved the idea of a college merger back in 2018.

The delay has been in part to “requests for a significant level of detail with regard to the financial business case” for the merger.

The financial model in the business case shows that a £3.6 million transitional funding request will be made to the Scottish Funding Council, of which £1.8 million would be deficit funding.

Among actions asked of councillors will be to approve the SIC leasing the Shetland College buildings and council-owned NAFC buildings to the new college body.

The Train Shetland building is expected to remain with Shetland Islands Council.

A report on the business case from Shetland Islands Council corporate services director Christine Ferguson meanwhile states that the final decision on the legal status of the new merged entity would rest with the government minister.

Teaching union EIS has criticised the decision for the new college to be unincorporated, saying it would result in “delivery being undertaken by a company limited by guarantee which would not be subject to the same governance arrangements in place for incorporated colleges in Scotland”.

The report also adds that the “vision for the new merged college places lifelong learning and research expertise at the heart of economic policy”.

Ferguson said the business case “outlines clearly how the new merged college will offer unique, high quality further and higher education opportunities for students”.