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Education / College merger ‘on track’, councillors told

Shetland College's main Gremista campus.Shetland College.

COUNCILLORS have been reassured that the merger of Shetland’s college sector remains on track – despite its expected launch date slipping to summer next year.

Chairman of the Shetland College board Peter Campbell stressed: “We will get to a merged position and we will have a new single entity for tertiary education in Shetland.”

The long-awaited merger would see Shetland College, NAFC Marine Centre and Train Shetland come together as one entity under the UHI umbrella.

It has been heralded as way of making operations more efficient and saving the council, which currently operates the college and Train Shetland, a sizeable chunk of money in the process [about £1.2million].

However, the SIC did not originally budget for having to fund the two services in the 2020/21 financial year after the Scottish Funding Council confirmed it would not offer financial assistance prior to the merger taking place.

At a meeting of the full council on Thursday south mainland member Allison Duncan said the situation is costing the SIC a “fortune”.

“Can we have a clear commitment from officers when this will be finalised?” he asked.

Council chief executive Maggie Sandison said the ministerial business case for the merger was now in the hands of the Scottish Government, which has to undertake consultations.

“I really do think we are moving forward and we will be able to deliver this project,” she said.

Campbell added that the UHI, which already oversees Shetland College and the NAFC Marine Centre, has become more involved in the merger process.

He also said there are “set timetables that the project team have no control over”.

SIC development director Neil Grant also said the project was “on track”, while he praised the work of corporate services director Christine Ferguson and Shetland College principal Jane Lewis in the merger process.