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The proposed merger of three colleges within the University of Highlands and Islands will not directly result in any compulsory staff redundancies.

A strategic project is currently examining bringing together Lews Castle College UHI, North Highland College UHI and West Highland College UHI to form a new college by January 2023. 

The merger plans, which could involve 9,000 students and around 600 staff, follow a detailed options appraisal earlier this year.

As well as a no job loss guarantee and a pledge to work closely with staff and Trade Unions throughout the process, two other key principles for the merger have been agreed. These are:

  • The creation of a new college would not result in any centralisation
  • Any savings identified would be reinvested to strengthen the educational offering.

In a joint statement, the three college principals Lydia Rohmer, Debbie Murray and Sue Macfarlane said: “We have made a clear commitment that there will be no compulsory redundancies and we will listen and collaborate with our staff, students and the pubic throughout the process.

“There is no intention for any form of centralisation, and a key development will be introducing three advisory committees to give voice to all of our local communities.

“The new College Board will include the Chair and Vice Chair of these local committees.

“Any savings identified by the merger will also be reinvested.”

The new college will remain within the university network which has 13 institutions across the Highlands and Islands.

A merger partnership board has been formed and a coordinator is being sought to take forward the plans.

The board consists of the principals and board chairs of the three colleges, along with staff and student representatives.

It is chaired by Dr Michael Foxley, who served as the university’s regional lead for Further Education between 2014-2021.

The principals’ statement continued: “Our communities need us to be the best we can be to help them be strong, resilient, thrive and prosper.

“The proposed merger offers us not only an opportunity to ensure we are doing just that but to consider if we can do it smarter and better. In short, it offers all of us a once in a generation opportunity to reimagine and create our own future.”

The plans are supported by the university management and the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association (HISA).

HISA president Florence Jansen said: “HISA has been advocating for mergers between our Academic Partners to improve the student experience for a number of years and are pleased that this project is now starting.

“We are very excited about the possibilities to improve student experience through the merger and look forward to a more sustainable and diverse curriculum offer for our students, along with more opportunities for peer support and the potential for investment into infrastructure.

“We are delighted to be closely involved with the merger process through representation on the merger board and its working groups.”