A 10-week public consultation on the proposed merger of UHI Outer Hebrides, UHI North Highland and UHI West Highland has been launched today (Monday 8 August).
The proposed partnership is intended to create a larger, more significant institution within the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) and Highland region, bringing together 9,000 students and 600 staff in 19 rural and island campus locations.
The three colleges face similar challenges including funding cuts, rising costs and a declining demographic. The merger group says that by bringing them together, they become more resilient, efficient, and financially sustainable.
The new merged college will focus on the growth of key industries, particularly in the blue and green economies, whilst also protecting existing local jobs. Merger will also give students access to more flexible learning opportunities.
All three colleges have confirmed that here will be no compulsory redundancies as a direct result of merger and have committed to adopting national bargaining on pay.
In a joint statement, the three principals, Debbie Murray (UHI North Highland), Sue Macfarlane (UHI Outer Hebrides), and Lydia Rohmer (UHI West Highland), said: “This is an opportunity for everyone to have their say on this exciting development, which we believe will be transformational for our rural and island communities.
“Merger is about doing more, not less. By coming together, we create a more resilient, sustainable organisation, which will continue to serve our local communities in the way we do now, but with more impact.
“We will have combined capacity to better meet the needs of our communities and to respond to the range of social, cultural and economic opportunities that make our region one of the most exciting places in the country to live, work and study right now.”
Dr Michael Foxley, chair of the partnership board leading the merger project, said: “We are confident this is the best way forward for our rural and island colleges, which play a critical role in supporting our local communities, not only through access to learning, training, skills development, and world-class research, but as local employers.
“It is important people get involved and have their say. All views will be taken on board and will help refine the case for merger, which will be considered by the boards of management at each of our three colleges later this year.”
The full merger proposal and business case, including a detailed rationale and financial model, can be viewed at www.rural-islands-merger.uhi.ac.uk
The consultation runs until Friday 14 October and will include online information events and drop-ins at campuses and learning centres.
The pictures show UHI Outer Hebrides principal Sue MacFarlane and the Stornoway campus from the air (UHI).